Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, December 27, 2006
The steep learning curve

Mijanul Akbar
I t has been a good six years since we got our test status. But truly it has been three years since we have a good stable coach, a decent domestic format, a panel of selectors etc. In international cricket we are still way behind the big boys. Once in a while we surprise them but most of the time we can't compete with them, be it in Tests or ODIs. We have unbelievably talented players, yet the learning curve seems to be a little steep. Why is that?

We all know that having a strong Domestic cricket infrastructure is one of the requirements for our continuous improvement. But I will not focus on that. I have another additional theory.

Looking at the history of cricket, each new nation entering the big league had trouble initially to compete with the other established teams. Only after a decade they started to show their potential and became powerhouses themselves. Not only did they become stable but they also performed well regularly. And they have been able to maintain that standard. I am talking about New Zealand, Sri Lanka, even West Indies. We are in the same boat as they were once. Expecting big, consistent performance from the Bangladeshi team within the next five years is just premature.

We are witnessing Shahriar Nafees bloom in front of our own eyes.
Nafees after his ODI century.
Each team coming into Tests had at least one or two performers who were consistent. Boys coming in had a role model to follow. They learned from their peers who were already established in the team.

Let us focus on Sri Lanka. Before Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Tharanga there were Atapattu, Jayasuriya, De Silva, Mahanama and Kuruppu. Before them there were Ranatunga, Madugalle and Mendis. Waves of talented players replaced the great ones. If the younger ones failed the older ones picked up the slack, ground out the matches. We don't expect a college graduate to know everything when he joins in the work force. Things he/she learns on the job are so valuable that it can not be measurable.

Bangladesh never enjoyed any player of that caliber who could be a mentor. Bulbul, Akram, Naimur and Khaled Mahmud tried their best but were not in the same standard of other international stars. They were not consistent either. Boys coming in had nowhere to turn to. Aftab, Ashraful had no shoulders to cry on. They are learning the hard way by themselves. Talent-wise they are no less than Tharanga; age-wise they are older, experience-wise much richer, and yet performance-wise nowhere close to him.

I believe the only thing Tharanga enjoys that Ashraful doesn't is the influence of the senior players. Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Jayawardene all taught him some things that one can't learn in text books: the match temperament, when to grind out, when to attack, how to attack, etc. Without this knowledge no matter how much talent one may possess they can't perform consistently. Other international teams produce players like Tharanga consistently because they have stable consistent senior players who battle together. Australia's new generation like Clarke watches Hayden, Ponting, Gilchrist day in and day out. England's Bell, Strauss watched Trescothik, Vaughn, Hussain and others before they came in to the lime light. They saw how much hard work is needed to succeed in this level. The following comment of Clarke only reconfirms my theory: "All the young guys in this squad and in the Test squad are very lucky because we have some great players in the squad...In our team, any opportunity you get to play cricket with them or be around them can only help you as a young cricketer. Being part of this Australian team, I am very lucky."

...boys like Shahriar Nafees and Aftab will become the corner stone of our teams.
Aftab on his way to making 51 against England.
"It is important to maximize your time with those guys - Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Matthew Hayden in the Test team. These guys have been very successful for such a long time. So I guess, if you can't learn off them, you will never learn."

We don't have that type of influence in our Bangladeshi team. If Ash was in the Australian team, I believe he would average a minimum of 35 for sure.

Bashar, our only senior player in the top order, is not consistent himself. How can he help the other batsmen? We are witnessing Shahriar Nafees bloom in front of our own eyes. He may be the one whom younger players coming in to the team would look up to. We will be mediocre against the big boys until we have that type of consistent influence in our team.

To feed the short term, we have forfeited the long-term. We thrust our younger players in to national team and demand performance. Since we don't have the seniors who can guide the younger generations in the field, we should nurture the younger generations properly. We should give them more opportunities in the form of A team and development squad tours before thrusting them into national team. We have to make it mandatory for our players to participate in the domestic league as long as possible.

The day will come that the boys like Shahriar Nafees and Aftab Ahmed will become the cornerstones of our team. Then the younger generation will have players to look up to and learn the tricks. Only then we can hope for steady consistent performance.