Bring back Nannu? Bring back Bulbul? Why is X in the team? Why is Y not in the team? Does all these sound familiar? Sure! Fans are like this, they want blood each time the team fails. Is/Was there any merit behind all these outcries? Do they deserve any fleeting attention? Let's look at some statistics. Statistics don't lie!
Remember WC 1999, the reason we are a "Test" team now? Who was our most successful batsman in that Tournament? Minhazul Abedin Nannu. But he was not supposed to be there! It was only because of the fans he got his boarding pass for the flight to England. Sans this late replacement, we would not have even beaten Scotland! We the fans knew his value; we have seen him before. When Kenya came to Bangladesh in the early 1990's we were often 50/5 at no times. It was Minhaz and Enamul Hoque that rescued us on most of those occasions.
In 1996 ICC trophy, we all remember Akram Khan's heroics against Holland. Do we remember the person who was with Akram during that historical innings? Those who followed the game know that it was Minhaz who first started rotating the strike when things looked lost. Do we remember that this same person volunteered to come at no. 3 in the final against Kenya when Bangladesh needed 160+ in 25 overs. Our trust in Minhaz was based on his grit, it was based on reality. So we knew when Bangladesh will be down 5 wickets within the first 15 overs, we will want Minhaz there. The history bears witness that we were not wrong.
What about our first official test? Do you remember the name that was not in the team list, but had to be drafted in due to our outcry? You better do. He is none other than our most successful Test batsman Habibul Bashar. How did the selectors miss his talent? Because they were never in the stadium! But we saw him play those little innings; we knew he has the class! We do know something! Why did the selectors discard Akram Khan before WC 2003? Most of the supporters wanted him in the team. We know he has shortcoming. We know his vulnerability against short-pitched deliveries. But we knew we did not have anyone better. We do know something! So please give us our due - listen to what we have to say.
I will start with Aminul Islam. He was discarded in 2002 from our national team (I'm talking about one-day team), never to be seen again. How much did he score in that match against Pakistan? 31 of 42 deliveries. And Bangladesh scored 200+. Why was he discarded? He, along with Akram Khan was deemed to be too old. The management/selectors decided we needed fresh blood. So who replaced them? Alok Kapali, Rajin Saleh, Ashraful. What does the statistics say?
Player M I NO Total H Avg SR 100 50
Aminul Islam 39 39 5 794 70 23.35 56.59 0 3
Akram Khan 44 44 2 976 65 23.23 56.71 0 5
Alok Kapali 42 41 2 797 89* 20.43 65.81 0 4
Ashraful 37 37 2 564 66 16.11 64.09 0 4
Rajin Saleh 21 21 0 457 71 21.76 52.58 0 3
Javed Omar 32 32 3 703 85 24.24 49.96 0 6
None of the youngsters have higher averages than the old guards! Does it mean that these newer faces are not good enough? We the fans don't say that. They are talented for sure, but they were introduced without facing the music even in the domestic leagues. Aminul, Akram, and Minhaz were brought up on a diet of one-day cricket. They played under pressure, they had the experience to face the music. It's unwise to throw the young bloods into the sea without first testing whether they will be able to swim the rivers. We all agree Mahmud is a mediocre player. But why he often does well as compared to more talented compatriots? Because experience counts. It is one thing to show your talent in the net; but it is a totally different ball-game out in the middle.
I know our domestic standard is not good. But should not our batters do well in the domestic arena. Should not they thrash the mediocre bowlers to all parts of the ground? I agree that success in the domestic arena will not automatically translate into international success. But if a player can't do well in domestic arena how will they do well against much better international opponents? If the local pitches are not good enough, good batsmen should be able to adjust their game to do well even in those matches. To be a good player one has to adjust his game to different conditions. How do the foreign recruits do well on the same pitches? Indian batsmen were brought up playing on benign pitches?..did not they produce Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid? They were as successful in domestic arena as they are in the international league.
Let's admit it. It was wrong to discard Aminul Islam from the one day team (not from the test team) when he was discarded. It was wrong to discard Javed Omar from the one day team. Statistics say he is the best opener among what we have. Let's learn from mistake. Remember that Ashraful was discarded from the 2002 SA tour? Do you know his last test innings before he was discarded from the test team? He scored only 75. Don't believe me? Please check for yourself.
So here is what we can learn from the past.
Don't discard a player from the one-day team because of his test performance. There is no doubt that class-players can succeed in both forms. But we don't have abundance of class. Players like Bevan, Slater found it difficult to adjust to different forms of the game. So it is only expected that some of our players will do so.
It is all good to introduce new faces. But don't introduce some one only because he has talent. Let us groom the talent. Let the talent mature before throwing him in the deep. Don't expect some one to succeed only because he showed some flashes of brilliance. A few good innings does not make a good player. I was disappointed to hear Whatmore say that Nafis and Aftab were some positives from this tournament. What did they do? Two innings of 40 and 20? And that shows positive? 40 and 20 are nothing in international arena. Words like this will instill false comfort. In my opinion, Nafis and Aftab were as much a failure as the other batters were.
Finally, don't place our expectation too high. The statistics show that we will find it difficult to be competitive against the top teams. For Gods' sake, the second tier India, Pakistan batters/bowlers are head and shoulder better then our top players. Just have a look at the last office league. If we expect to beat the hell out of the top teams without even proving our mettle against lesser opponents we are only going to be disappointed. We don't have the resources to start blasting Pollock and Co. from the beginning. We even struggle to play 50 overs. Let us be realistic, let's keep the wicket and try to build a respectful total instead of trying to score 250 every game.
The author is a distinguished member of banglacricket forum and goes by the nick "Optimist" - editors