Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Updated: Saturday, January 10, 2009
Ashraful needs to go

Khondaker Mirazur Rahman

The same script, the same fate and with every repetition, Bangladesh falls further behind in international cricket. Once again we see the scene of a “bewildered” Mohammad Ashraful looking at his non-striking partner in disbelief and finally trudging back to the pavilion cursing his fate for yet another idiotic dismissal at a crucial moment. His cavalier attitude towards cricket has been a detrimental influence on a youthful Bangladesh side that follow more often than not their skipper in playing reckless cricket. This is how Mohammad Ashraful is leading Bangladesh. And this is why a team with immense potential is consistently failing to compete at the top level.

Ashraful’s lack of insight and understanding of the state of the play is not only affecting his own batting, but also the way Bangladesh approaches a game as a batting unit. A player who has been playing international cricket for 8 years should realize his problem. Yet, Ashraful shows no sign of learning. He simply does not seem to know the art of building an innings. And taking responsibility is not a virtue which is present in his book.

His reliance on luck by playing risky shots in the air and not trying to minimize the “luck factor” is sending a wrong signal to his young teammates.  Ashraful’s dicey approach has started to become the trademark style of Bangladesh batsmen. They are not developing the character and determination required to succeed in international cricket. It is time to realize the simple fact that audacious stroke play, over-ambitious and reckless cricket won’t take them anywhere in the near future other than bring even more humiliations for them and their 150 million passionate cricket followers. Reliance on “once in a blue moon” Ashraful is causing more harm than good to the prospect of Bangladesh as a cricket team.

After the departure of Habibul Bashar, Bangladesh awarded captaincy to the talented Mohammad Ashraful in a bid to take Bangladesh cricket forward. It appears that
This recklessness must end

This recklessness must end © Cricinfo

the notion of honor and responsibility associated with the captaincy has not changed Ashraful; perhaps only the fear for survival might effect a change. Let him earn his place in the team and let him fight to retain it. This might bring a welcome change and he might start performing. This will ultimately help Bangladesh in its fight for survival in Test cricket and getting regular success in other forms of cricket.

In Jamie Siddons, Bangladesh has a coach who believes in long term Tigers uprising at the expense of short term “flash in the pan” successes. In Champaka Ramanayeke, they have a capable bowling coach who has effectively turned a mediocre Bangladesh attack into a competitive one within a very short span of time. However, the good works of the bowlers are getting consistently nullified by incompetent “reckless” batting.  What is the weakest link in Bangladesh cricket that is holding the Tigers back in International cricket?  On-field captaincy.

Having vision, the ability to motivate others, possessing self-knowledge and leading from the front are the essential characteristics of any leader. Unfortunately for Bangladesh, Mohammad Ashraful’s antics during the last 8 in international cricket show that either he doesn’t understand or is completely unaware about the attributes of a captain. His recent dismissals against Sri Lanka in the second Test and in the opening match of the tri-series against Zimbabwe should be the final nail in his captaincy coffin. Bangladesh needs someone with a more serene and assured approach to inspire a youthful side. It is time Bangladesh cricket administrators understand this reality and take appropriate actions.

Bangladesh already has replacements who can step up to take the responsibility like they have done at age group levels. Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim are two such names. Mashrafe Mortaza’s susceptibility to injury virtually rules him out of the running; otherwise he would have been a serious contender for the position. Both Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim came through a proper cricket system in which they represented age group, academy and A teams. Both of them have the experience of captaincy at different levels and led their respective teams with examples. They are young but have proven leadership qualities. Most importantly, they have calm heads on their shoulder and rely more on substance than flashy style.

The recent stance by the ECB to not invite Bangladesh after 2010 will definitely influence the minds of other cricket administrators who might want to follow the suit. Bangladesh has apparently failed to learn the basic tenets of Test cricket even after 8 years of introduction to the top league and aren’t consistent enough even in ODI cricket. Bangladesh’s recent form in international cricket is very much alarming for the overall future of cricket in the country. The current team management has failed to build on the achievements of the previous team management in one day cricket. When every other team is making strides we are walking backwards.  And the skipper is leading the retreat with his fanciful game plan.

However, not everything is lost. Bangladesh has showed some encouraging signs in recent home Tests and fought neck and neck against South Africa and New Zealand. They have managed to take the honors in a couple of sessions.  But, there is a huge difference between winning a couple of sessions of a Test match and winning the match itself. This is where a true leader can make a difference. On every occasion where Bangladesh had achieved winnable positions in Test cricket, they have been denied by inspired leadership from the opposing captain. This happened in Multan (Inzamam-Ul Haque), Fatullah (Ricky Ponting), Mirpur (Graeme Smith) and Chittagong (Daniel Vettori). Bangladesh needs a leader with the same combination of skill, vision and insight to lead them out of the current morass.

It is not that Bangladesh aren’t trying to improve their game. The question is whether they are taking the right approach to be competitive at top level cricket and whether the right leadership is in place to take a young team forward! When a socially and economically ruined country like Zimbabwe, with its dysfunctional cricket structure,  starts beating Bangladesh comfortably, then something is very wrong. Immediate action is required before irreparable damage is done. It is always said that Bangladesh must learn to play cricket within their limitations.  To compete at the top, they must buckle down and put a high price on their wickets. We have seen no concrete signs of this happening in recent years. Only a true leader can make this happen. A change in leadership has never been more required than now!