Looking Back Looking Forward

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Bangladesh's Mosaddek Hossain celebrates taking the wicket of New Zealand's Corey Anderson with teammatesSaleque Sufi

True that the performance of team Tigers in the semi-final of the of the ICC Champions Trophy was a bit disappointing, but one must appreciate that reaching into the semi-final of a global tournament for Bangladesh cricket team was a no mean achievement.

Bangladesh was not favorite in the exclusive club of the top eight ranked teams for finishing among the top four. Yet they did play some brilliant matches. Much higher ranked and much stronger teams like Australia, South Africa and New Zealand made early exit from the tournament. But team Tigers played in the semi-final. That made Bangladesh proud.

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Like Bangladesh, host and hot favorites England also lost the semi-final against lowly rated Pakistan. Bangladesh on the contrary lost against a too much superior and hot favorites India. But we, who want to see Bangladesh winning every day, everywhere in every event are disappointed.

We must also keep in mind that in no other games and sports Bangladesh is not among the elite group. It is this Mashrafe Bin Mortaza led Tiger squad which has raised the national expectation sky high. We will win some and lose some. That is the way life goes on. We must learn welcoming win and loss with the same sporting spirit.

Very strong Australia is set to visit Bangladesh soon for playing Test series. Now Bangladeshis must get ready proving its growing maturity in the longer version of the game against the best team of the world.

But looking back there can be a reality check of the performance of the Champions trophy mission. Bangladesh went to UK well ahead of the tournament for acclimatization with wickets and condition. Couple of weeks of conditioning camp, practice matches definitely tuned the Tigers.

The Tri nation series in Ireland leading to the tournament also gave lot of confidence. True Bangladesh lost two practice matches against Pakistan and India. But those matches also helped in assessing the strength and weaknesses.

In the tournament Bangladesh batted superbly against host England posting 305 runs. But bowlers failed to defend it. Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim produced very high quality wonderful innings against very strong English attack.

Bangladesh was definitely lucky in avoiding defeat against Australia in rain affected second match. But the best win of Bangladesh in recent time was against strong New Zealand. The entire team bowled exceedingly well in restricting New Zealand.

Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah Riyad both scoring punishing centuries produced the best batting display of the tournament. Media, star players of the past were in full praise. Bangladesh managed beating the Kiwis twice in UK this time. After not too bright tour of New Zealand these wins evidenced the growing maturity of the team.

This event has given golden opportunity for objectively assessing Bangladesh cricket team at global level. They are now among the top six teams. Reaching there was possible for the brilliant committed performance of several cricketers and cricket personalities of the past. Players like Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Musthfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah Riyad were not created in a day.

It is great that head coach Hathurusingha did finally realize the quality and value of these senior professionals for the success of the team. Unfortunately, some others like team management could not appropriately nurture Mominul Haq, Nasir Hossain, Al Amin and few others who could compliment the contributions of the seniors.

Soumya Sarkar, Sabbir Rahman, Mustafizur Rahman and Taskin Ahmed failed to perform consistently. Talented Mehedi Miraz and experienced Imrul Kayes was not smartly used. Hope Hathurusingha realized that it is way too early to advise the seniors making their exit plans. The players for walking into their shoes are not yet ready.

Looking back into retrospect, we find Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim were in prolific form throughout the UK tour. Both played some excellent innings. Shakib and Mahmudullah were getting into their strides. They produced the best partnership of the tournament against a very strong New Zealand attack.

Mahmudullah was definitely not appropriately used. He should have regularly batted in the top order. Mashrafe is the only bowler who bowled well consistently. Rubel Hossain looked good. But Mustafizur and Taskin were very disappointing.

Talented Mehedi Miraz was under used. Bangladesh suffered with issues in top order batting. Soumya and Sabbir could not pay back the faith of team management. Talented Mominul Haque, if mentored properly, could develop into a top class number three batsmen by now. Otherwise highly skilled Mahmudullah should have batted at number three.

Sabbir and Soumya have excellent hand eye coordination. But at the same time they are too predictable. Their suspected footwork let to their down fall. Bangladesh missed the all-round contributions of Nasir Hossain. We found no justifications why he was not a regular member of the squad and the team. In every match Bangladesh failed to make the best use of the last batting power play where Nasir could be very effective. It is urgent that Bangladesh makes a plan and puts him in place.

It was great that in 2015 Bangladesh reached to the quarter final of ICC World Cup and in 2017, the semi-final of yet another global event ICC Champions trophy. In 2019 Bangladesh would appear in ICC World cup again. That will also be held in England. Bangladesh must work in line with the lessons learned from their just concluded UK mission.

We need a better opening partner of Tamim Iqbal and a number three batsman to start with. Soumya Sarkar is one of the exciting prospects. But his lack of foot work and tendency of playing too many strokes away from his body brought his down fall every time. Batting coach must iron these out.

Imrul Kayes looks ok. He has better defensive skills. But he too these days tries to be adventurous manufacturing strokes early. BCB may look into few other options.

Number three is the key position where the best technically equipped batsman of the team having skills of playing strokes play. In the days of Australia Ricky Ponting used to play at three. Even now Steve Smith Plays. For India it is now Virat Kohli. In the past it used to be Rahul Dravid the wall. Great Zaheer Abbas used to play for Pakistan in its golden days. For New Zealand Kane Williamson bat at three, for England Joe Root. These evidences that Sabbir is a gross mismatch. He neither has the technique or the skills for that position.

Bangladesh has failed to mature little bird Mominul Haque who could be the most ideal number three batsman by this time. Off the rest it must be Mahmudullah or Shakib from the present team till Mosaddek matures. Sabbir for T20 is OK. For ODI he can bat at 6 or 7. Mushfiqur, Shakib and Mahmudullah along with Tamim are the nucleus of the team around which Bangladesh must keep building still for a while till Mosaddek Hossain, Mehedi Hasan Miraz matures.

For late order options, Nasir Hossain must not be deprived any longer. Naeem Islam for his aggressive batting is another player who can be seen again at number 6 or 7 for his big hitting skills. He is also a more than useful all-rounder.

Bangladesh needs a wicket taking quality leg spinner. Even in this tournament Shadab Khan, Adil Rashid bowled well. We lost Jubair Hossain but there must be hunt for another soon.

Our 9, 10 and jack hardly makes any contribution. The batting actually ends at Mashrafe Bin Mortaza. If we need to advance further we need to develop batting skills of Taskin Ahmed, Rubel Hossain and Mustafizur Rahman a bit or play a pace bowling all-rounder.

We think Mehedi Miraz is also not being given right opportunity to improve his batting skills at international level. He will soon need to bat in top order and he has proven skills and temperament for that.

Now about the bowling. Sorry to say no pace bowlers have the skills of control that Mashrafe Bin Mortaza still has. Fast bowling is an art. Hope bowling icon Walsh can guide Rubel, Taskin, Mustafiz and others developing that. Non-resident Bangladeshis living in London can try and find playing opportunities in local leagues for Taskin, Rubel and Mustafiz if possible. One season in English summer will improve them a lot.

Look at Pakistan. There is no international cricket there. But they are producing top quality fast bowlers every now and then. Hasan Ali and Rumman Rois are latest edition. Won’t be surprised if Pakistani pacers win the tournament for them.

Bangladesh need better sporting domestic wickets for developing its pacers and great care of them. Shakib played as the lone regular spinner in most matches. We thought Miraz could be better option than one of the four pacer against India. It was ordinary Kedar Jadhav who did the damage against Bangladesh. Mehedi could bat better than our tail also.

Bangladesh has failed to find a quality left arm spinner after choosing to curtail out ace spinner Abdur Razzak too early. Taijul, Arafat Sunny are no longer relied upon. Opposition seems to have worked out Shakib. Bangladesh will host Australia in Test and then visit South Africa. We hope the performance of the team in the entire UK visit would be critically evaluated.

Mominul Haq and Nasir Hossain must be in the team for all formats of the game. For the Test experienced batsmen like Shahriar Nafees and Naeem Islam must be considered. We hope Mustafizur Rahman would get back his midas touch in home wickets.

Bangladesh perhaps lost a trick in not working on the talent of Al Amin. He was a quality swing bowler. Also the absence of a quality match winning leg spinner was a serious weakness. Sohag Gazi and Taijul Islam need required opportunities to bolster the spinning strength.

The development squad/high performance squad must be given enough exposure of competitive cricket at home and abroad. It is sad that in so many years another Mashrafe Bin Mortaza could not be created. He with his bruised and battered knees still produces golden spells which must encourage all youngsters.

The five senior professionals would gradually phase out in two to three years. Talented youngsters need to be nurtured without any fear or favor for anyone. Hope BCB would try to take experts advice instead of relying on few controversial persons of team management.

The cricket admirers deserve a pat in the back. Tiger’s fans in UK gave unprecedented support to the team. In every match they came in numbers and their voices were loudly heard. Cricket has really united the nation in love and patriotism. Let the unity created through cricket transpires in all spheres of life of Bangladeshis.

Khondkar Saleque Sufi is an eminent Research Fellow of Monash University, Australia, He was the former Advisor at Ministry of Mines & Petroleum of Republic of Afghanistan and Deputy General Manager of Bakhrabad Gas Systems Ltd.

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