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Soon we will be playing Namibia. It will be a year since we last played them and will be a rather fine occasion to illustrate how far we have progressed. For any other team in the Test cricket fraternity it would be an opportunity to relish thrashing a weaker team. However, for Bangladesh this luxury has to wait. The cruise controls will not be switched on yet.

No cruise control in Namibia, please!

Published: 12th January, 2004

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Soon we will be playing Namibia. It will be a year since we last played them and will be a rather fine occasion to illustrate how far we have progressed. For any other team in the Test cricket fraternity it would be an opportunity to relish thrashing a weaker team. However, for Bangladesh this luxury has to wait. The cruise controls will not be switched on yet.

Namibia, having played in the World Cup, will have learnt from the experience and will look to reap the rewards. With improved performances in the South African domestic one-day tournament, in which they play, their priority is to demonstrate fierce competition against Bangladesh and also fancy a chance win. We cannot let this happen.

Let us not forget that Namibia reached a peak against their World cup game against England, who put in an awful performance because of arrogance. Namibia put up an impressive display having England in trouble for great periods of that match before succumbing to a 55 run defeat. The Burger brothers were their stars with Jan-Berry Burger hitting a solid 85. Burger is not an unfamiliar character to Bangladesh. The Burger brothers are to Namibia what the Waughs are to Australia. They figure prominently in their matches and display typical grit of the southern African teams. Pakistan also found the going anything but easy against Namibia's bowlers, although they subsequently produced a result with the batting line-up gone for 84 all out. Certainly their games with Kenya and Bangladesh have helped improve an amateur outfit.

On the other hand they have also demonstrated the inconsistencies and inexperience common to weaker teams. In the last World Cup we saw how Namibia found the task of reaching Holland's target of 314 for four too much and eventually lost the game by 64 runs. But on happier occasions they have savoured a win against Kenya in 2002 (Kenya won the series 3-1) and have the ability to pull off surprises. It is such surprises that Bangladesh needs to avoid.

Deon Kotze, their captain intends to lift cricket in Namibia to greater heights. With the help of South Africa, where the team regularly play, a slow but steady progression into the world of test cricket is anticipated. South Africa is a critical factor. Namibia's inclusion in the Standard Bank Cup - South Africa's domestic one-day competition - in the run-up to the World Cup was a great influence and will continue to be in their future development.

Like Bangladesh and typical of weaker nations they suffer from poor batting and they have hopes of establishing two and three-day domestic cricket with the aim of improving the standard of batting - currently lagging behind bowling ability.

So with a bit of history let?s remind ourselves how we fared with them a year ago. Go back to February 2003, a time of hope, as we anxiously awaited the World Cup with fans relishing the prospect of beating a few of the minnows, including Kenya.

Fortunately, it was fast bowlers Talha Jubair and Taposh Baisya who helped Bangladesh record a comfortable 60-run win against them in the first limited-overs match. Batting first, Namibia struggled to 163 before being all out in 43 overs. Ashraful, still fresh as the darling of Bangladesh hopes, top scored with 45 and Alok Kapali contributed 33. Namibia was out for 103 in 33.5 overs with Talha and Taposh sharing seven wickets among them. Talha finished with four for 25 runs while Taposh had more economical with figures of 3/10. Not a bad job and if you were a fan then you would have expected the team to be on cruise control with similar performance in the rest of the games.

No. Bangladesh suffered a two-wicket defeat against them in the second match. Actually, Bangladesh recovered from a dreadful start to make a fighting 212 for seven in 50 overs. Namibia reached their target (213 for eight) with four balls to spare. By accident it was also Bob Woolmers first day as their coach of Namibia!

Bangladesh displayed their usual batting collapse with a 98 for 6 before the lower order of Masud and Rafique rescued us from an embarrassing scoreboard. It was in this game that Masud played a captain's knock of 46 off 98 balls. Rafique scored an unbeaten 61 that included four fours and a six. Needless to say Habibul Bashar and Kapali disappointed. In fact Sumon continued with a run of bad form throughout the tour up to the world cup.

This was the second successive game in Namibia that Bangladesh suffered a batting collapse. It was a sign of deeper troubles that would afflict them at their world cup games. Also, It should have sounded off the alarm bells right there and then but greater humiliations would await the nation. To put it simply our bowlers could not make up for the batting debacle. In that match Namibia, a team of doctors and engineers, with their opener Swonepole carved a victory with a solid 73 off 128 balls. At the other end the now familiar Burger struck a gritty 31.

In the rest of the matches Bangladesh drifted along to win the matches and the series but certainly not in a convincing fashion. The third match was a struggling three-wicket win where Namibia made 232 for six in 50 overs. Bangladesh were cruising at one stage but showed another batting collapse when they lost three wickets in the space of 20 runs. Similarly they had another hiccup when two wickets fell for 14. It was Rafique, who put on 26 runs for the unbroken eighth wicket with Masri, who smashed two fours to score nine off eight deliveries.

Bangladesh won the fourth limited-overs match against Namibia by a hairs margin. But the victory by one wicket and that too in a low-scoring match once again confirmed that batting remains a prime concern for the team to this day. Set to score only 132 for victory, Bangladesh gasped before reaching the target in 37.5 overs. It was a classic BD top-order collapse that saw them falter at 57 for six. And yet again Pilot saved that day with a captain's knock of 44 runs off 71 balls.

The promising batting stars of Bangladesh on that day, Al-Shahriar and Kapali, continued to struggle with the bat in the matches. Kapali failed with the bat but made good by coming up with good bowling figures. Again it was Rafique who was the best and most consistent performer for Bangladesh, finishing with fantastic figures of 8.3-0-14-4. For Namibia it was Jan-Berry Burger, a man to watch out for, who top-scored with 31 runs.

In the final match Rokon mysteriously shined. He blasted 177. Now 177 is not a score you see regularly in Bangladesh cricket even if we play Namibia. It is truly a tragedy that we have players who could muster such a feat in rare occasions but are simply mediocre in the other 364 days of the year. The 177 that Rokon scored in that match once again should be viewed in the context of the stunning collapse in the last five overs of the match.

There will be new faces in the Bangladesh team when we meet Namibia. There will also be old players who have been there before, such as Sarkar, Kapali, Rafique and Sumon. Whoever is in the team we all expect a more convincing result this time around. Nothing but a clinical execution and a complete whitewash will be desired.

 

About the author(s): G. M. Bashar is a BanglaCricket supermoderator who is known as "oracle". He is a prolific contributor to our collection of fine articles. In addition to his obvious interest in cricket, he also has a keen desire to be our own version of David Frost - exemplified by the large number of interviews he has taken of key Bangladesh cricket personalities.

 

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