Monday, February 19, 2018
Updated: Saturday, March 21, 2015
|We have seen our heroes stand up but fail to deliver. Moses needs not apply.|
Ahmad A. Iqbal
With bitterness of the loss against India still in my palate, I find myself getting even more frustrated when I read all the chest thumping from our media and fans alike. Yes, the umpiring was atrocious, Rohit was gifted a life to add 30 more runs to the already swelling total. Mahmudullah could’ve been given a benefit of doubt, and the same goes with LBW decision that was judged not out. But, no, there was no conspiracy by the ICC nor the BCCI to pay off the umpires to take the game away from us.
It is a hard pill to swallow when the Bangladesh teams feel that they are always on the receiving end of wrong decisions. It is especially stinging and unfair when it happens when the stakes are really high. I’m sure everyone has a story about the much loathed Asoka Da Silva.
But, as fans, we can’t fan the fire that asks for the victim role. We need to move on and accept the realities on the ground. Chances are that most subjective decisions will go against smaller teams. Such is reality. It is the same human nature that dictates that good looking criminals gets lesser sentences and kids are more attentive to teachers with certain looks than others and so on.
Instead of bewailing real and perceived biases, we need to really examine what went wrong at our end and what we could have done differently.
What bothers me most is not the loss of the game but the fact that Bangladesh failed to stay on the script against India. Despite all the bad calls, Bangladesh could still have been in a great position to pull it off.
In my opinion, it was a failure of change management and selfish attitudes from senior players that did us in at the end. The Bangladesh captain made it obvious that he had no such management plan as the situations changed, and led the train off the track.
This, in conjunction with a need to be hero, perhaps was the root cause of our failure. I have been reading up stories and interviews from the team captain leading up to game. While I realize that he had to psych himself and the team up for the big game on the biggest stage, his response was full of hyperboles and emotional outbursts that were better suited for someone running for local elections than for a cricket captain.
In one Bengali outlet, he described in details about his surgeries and subsequent physical therapy in Melbourne, by saying how much blood he had “given” there, and was “even more ready to shed some more (for the game day), etc.”
There is no doubt whatsoever that Mashrafe had given everything he’s got to his side. His labored run up and frequent adjustments of knee-braces and grimaces are testament to someone who has been superseding his physical limitation by driving his body to get every last bit out of it. To his credit, it had been bearing fruit and was awe aspiring to watch. I am sure his team mates felt it and one can see how pumped up they were against New Zealand and England. His body continued to comply until it didn’t and couldn’t any more.
Unfortunately for Bangladesh, it happened on the biggest day. Mashrafe’s first delivery showed that something was no in synch. While there is no doubt that he was not holding anything back, the tank was completely empty by then as his ‘fast balls’ appeared as large slow moving grapefruits on the batsmen’s end. It was obvious to everyone except Mash that something was amiss.
In a land of constant political turmoil, Mashrafe’s plight became the lighting rod that got everyone rallying to both rational but mostly “irrational exuberance”. On the game day, Mashrafe saw himself as the abnegating saint, perhaps a latter day Moses- ready to take his flock to the promise land. In his mind, he could probably see the coronation ceremony waiting on the other side.
For all his sacrifices, nobody could blame him for being selfish. Yet, he got caught up in the moment and forgot that the deliverance could’ve happened through forbearance. I bet it was a total case of cognitive dissonance for the Indian batsmen when they saw Mashrafe brought himself to bowl at the start of the power play.
The pressure, prior to that, had them on the ropes. The Bangladesh wheels started to come off the wagon the moment he started bowling again.
His was an example of linear thinking that missed the forest for the trees. An effective leader’s job is not to infuse the team with all of his own energy, but to imbue it by creating an environment that would produce windfall of collective energy.
By acknowledging first that things are not going his way and then recognizing that there WERE others who are fully and better equipped than him, he could’ve created that multiplier effect. Yet, when the team needed him to lead from the back, he failed miserably.
Cricket, like most team sports, is a game of non-linear actions punctuated by many mini-momentums.
Thanks to his saintly gesture of “self-sacrifice”, the momentum shifted for the other teams’ favor and India never looked back.
A leader, especially when things are not going on the team’s favor, does not lose the script, they study the situation and make real=time allowance to address the changes. But, Mash couldn’t do it. He appeared frustrated, at times especially when the batsmen were on rampage, looked like a deer caught in a headlight. Like a frustrated office worker in Bangladesh who’s stuck in a much with no respite in sight, takes out his frustrations on his poor wife and kids at home; Mashrafe’s verbal assault on Taskin was more of disguised acknowledgement of his own failing than anything else.
Good or bad, emotions are contagious. The droopy shoulders and lackluster fielding were the signs of that contagion.
Even with 302 on the score line, all wasn’t lost, at least not till another senior player had the oft-recurring brain freeze. Tamim came out blazing all guns – as if he single handedly wanted to cross the finish line by the 30th over. Why else would he, after hitting boundaries, continue to throw his bat at everything that was coming in his direction? This guy, more than anyone else, had become more of a liability than an asset. His was the case study of why talent, devoid of any strategic thinking, would not amount to much. While he has the talent to take the game away from the other team on any given Sunday, he feels that also reserve the right to not show up at all.
With that binary approach, it was anybody’s guess which version was going to show up. Yesterday, even for few overs, he made sure that we’d continue to rue, forever wondering what could’ve been if he didn’t play that last shot.
While Soumya could’ve been forgiven for his inexperience and big-game jitter, Tamim had absolutely no excuse for batting the way he did right as the bowlers were on the defense. He knew what was at stake. Over 150 millions’ hope was riding on his shoulders, but he was once again being his classic self: it was about him, and to him, belonged all glory.
The fans have seen many iteration of this movie before. The Bangladesh team cannot afford the unpredictability and schizophrenic performance from a guy who absolutely should have known better.
The decision to have Kayes as the stand-in for Amanul would have been acceptable five years ago. But, with capable and hungry players in the pipeline, bringing this guy in because he had one-off good game against the English was mind boggling. He made sure that his reputation as a walking wicket remained intact.
Along with Tamim, I must say that Shakib continued to disappoint with his batting. Independent of what the stats suggest I still don’t know why he’s rated so high as an allrounder. His bowling is world class. However, he’s batting, especially under pressure is still sophomoric. Not unlike Tamim, he seems to have invisible on-crease- lobotomy done right when his teams needs him the most. This World Cup was no exception. What really gets me is that he never seemed to be contrite. He walks off, leaving his team in tatters, wearing a weird little smile on his face.
Perhaps, I was delusional still, to hope that Mashrafe would show some magic work with his batting even if as consolation prize, long after the plot is lost. It wasn’t going to happen.
I agree with Mash that the team has a lot to be proud of. A year or two ago, I couldn’t have said this with a straight face, but this team IS finally turning the corner especially with the new comers.
In spite of the heartache, the pluses have been tremendous: the discovery of Soumya Sarkar, Shabbir Rahman, Taskin, the (re)emergence of Mahmudullah and the confidence of Rubel, etc. to name a few.
The team finally got rid of their jitters and came together against the Scots. Despite their loss against NZ, they were really impressive. In fact, I thought they were more impressive in the loss against NZ than during their win against ENG.
One of the discovered gems, Soumya represents something that is extremely rare to find not only in Bangladesh but in the subcontinent: a total fearless attitude. This must be a millennial thing. I've seen that in Virat Kohli as well. When Soumya walked in against NZ, the senior players were totally clueless and disconcerted against swing. The Kiwis were breathing fire in terms of their accuracy, length and bi-directional swinging.
Perhaps he was too ambivalence and naïve to know any better. But he walked in with attitude that telegraphed as if he was about to face just another one of his para cricket bowlers. Who else but either a fool or an ice-blooded mongoose would attack a fire breathing cobra?
His strokes seemed so unbelievably effortless that one could get goose bumps watching them. I just hope that he does not end up being an Ashraful incarnate.
I am glad to see Bangladesh found someone who could really hit the ball, and not just slog it down the batting line. Like Soumaya, watching Shabbir play would bring smile to any fan. Both of them have great techniques were a great find.
It is also great to see that Mahmadullah finally found a place where he was comfortable and could be dependable.
The Bangladesh team is at a stage where they don’t need any more heroes or some sort of Ashrafulesque wunderkind. What they need, more than anything, is more of journeyman cricketers like Mahmudullah and Mushfiq, who are dependable and have strong work ethic. Every time they walk in, the crowd doesn’t have to guess which version is going to show up. As the new guys come through the pipeline, I hope they don’t emulate the swashbuckling heroes.
Instead, I hope that the newbies would learn to work hard, foster a culture of strong work-ethic and become dependable by their teammates and the fans.
We have seen our heroes stand up but fail to deliver. Moses needs not apply.
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