Thursday, January 17, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, December 29, 2004
A strong Bangladesh team is not far away

Tanvir Ahmed

It was as if Bangladesh had won another liberation war and our Freedom Fighters had freed our country once again from occupation. Thousands, if not millions of people took their celebrations to the streets. This time, it was not the Freedom Fighters, but our Tigers that freed our country. Not from occupation, but from the humiliation we suffered since gaining the elite status. Bangladesh�s famous victory in the 1997 ICC trophy opened many new windows to our cricket. We won the one day status, went on to the world cup and defeated mighty Pakistan, won the Test status and even scored 400+ runs on our very first test innings. But it all went downhill from there on.

Tigers kept on losing day in and day out. Test matches that were supposed to last five days, kept on ending on the third day. Tigers hit rock bottom when they lost to Canada by 60 runs in the world cup. Bangladesh were humiliated and criticized by sports media all around the world, every time the name Bangladesh came up. They were called the whipping boys of cricket, the ugly step sister of test cricket and much more. But just when it all started to go wrong, some of Bangla�s children showed the aggressive side of their feline family, lived up to their name and played like real tigers.

But, how can it be? It's impossible, how can it be? This was some of our reactions apart from pulling our hair, when Bangladesh were bowled out for only 120 runs against Canada. We didn�t know what to do, where to hide our faces. Officials of the BCB were clueless. They didn�t know where to start the rebuilding process. But their first move was the best one they could have made. They hired the one and only Dav Whatmore to coach the kittens that wore the logo of a tiger on their shirts. It started to pay off immediately. After doing much better than expected against the best in the business, Australia, Bangladesh came just one wicket short of winning her first ever test match in Multan.

Bangladesh then traveled to Zimbabwe and recorded its first ODI win since the victory over Pakistan in 1999 world cup, which was played down by some with match fixing allegations, which however was never proven. Bangladesh almost wrapped up the series, but failed in the end.

The second ODI was historic

The second ODI was historic

Then it was time to travel to the Caribbean and face the West Indians. Once again they failed to secure a sure victory in the first ODI of the series due to their lack of ability to finish off a game. But the biggest surprise was yet to come. For the first time Bangladesh had drawn a test match fighting and not due to bad weather. Three tigers scored centuries in that test, including Rafique who came in at number nine and Khaled Mashud who came in at number eight. Then came the best part. Brian Lara was so disappointed and humiliated that he declared that he would resign from captaincy unless they could defeat Bangladesh in the second test. After getting all the attention, they slipped again.

Bangladesh performed horribly in the Asia cup, the champions trophy, and in their home series against New Zealand and once again due to their batting collapse. It became obvious that Bangladeshi bowlers were performing up to everyone�s expectations. It was their batting that was costing them all those big defeats. Every time Bangladeshi bowlers made it look like they could snatch a win, the batsmen blew it all up as they were vulnerable to the new ball and lost all of their openers, top order, upper middle order batsmen by the first twenty overs.

But Bangladesh stood out in first innings of the second test against India and scored 333 runs which included an unbeaten 158 from Ashraful. It seemed like that innings opened a new era to Bangladeshi cricket. It used to be their batting that cost them matches, but Bangladeshi batsmen found their confidence and started to bat like real Tigers. In the first ODI against India, Bangladesh fell short of only 11 runs. The second ODI was historic. It was Bangladesh�s 100th ODI, and the tigers made it memorable in style as they beat India by 14 runs. The third ODI went out of hand partly because of the surprise inclusions in the team of Hasibul Hossain, which no one could believe and the terribly out of form Mushfiqur Rahman. These two gave 83 runs in 8 overs very early in the game, which took away lots of confidence to fight back from Tigers. But, the Tigers did well with the bat and went on to score 257/9 against a full strength India which was thought impossible even a couple of weeks ago.

If we forget about Bangladesh�s negative aspects this season and pay close attention to their success, we can clearly see the improvements they have made. We have young talents like Ashraful who is considered as the best 20 year old in cricket today by many; Aftab; Nafees; Mashrafe, who was called superman by Ravi Shastri after 2nd ODI against India; Tapash, who�s swingers were praised by the best, Waz; Manjural Islam Rana, Enamul haque Junior; Nazmul Hossain; Rajin Saleh, just when we thought he lost his touch, he fielded like Johnty Rhodes and batted like Steven Fleming; we have upcoming talents like Sharif, Raj, Shahadat and Kapali (who is one of the best Tigers, but rested due to his recent bad form).

The best thing is, all of them are very young. Some of them have not even reached 20. And for those who are still in their early twenties, no one played even fifty ODIs, yet they show glimpses of talent here and there and often caused much headache to their seasoned opponents. All of them mentioned above have performed tremendously well, but the problem remains with their consistency. None of them is consistent and not more than one or two of them can click in any given match. As we all know and as all the big names say, this is mainly due to the lack of their experience. As they play more matches they will learn to be more consistent and more of them will be able to perform well in every match. Only then the Tigers will really live up to their name and fight like roaring tigers. So, as these cubs turn in to tigers, let us be patient and give them some breathing room. They have showed that they can win. They just need some time to learn to face world class players and transform into a world power.

The author is a distinguished member of banglacricket forum and goes by the nick "howzatt!" - editors