Sunday, 23 December 2007

It takes time to change : An interview with Naimur Rahman Durjoy

N aimur Rahman Durjoy is one of those rare cricketers who have led their country in a maiden Test. Durjoy captained Bangladesh in its inaugural Test match and led from the front, bagging 6 wickets with his offspin. Despite his bright debut at the highest level of international cricket, Durjoy could only manage 6 more Test wickets his 8 match career; one which was never the same after his bowling underwent ICC mandated remedial action. Durjoy's brief Test tenure lasted just over one year. Along with his Test career, Durjoy was also a regular in the Bangladeshi ODI setup during the pre-test era, playing 29 ODIs with modest success, over a 7 year span (ending in 2002). After continuing to perform well in domestic cricket, he retired from cricket in 2004 to focus on his business interests. In August 2007, Durjoy was made a member of the National Selection Panel that also consists of Akram Khan and is led by Rafiqul Alam.

BanglaCricket: You were the captain of Bangladesh in their debut Test in November 2000. Now seven years later, again in November 2007, you are part of the Test set up, this time picking the national squad as a selector. What made you interested in taking up this role?

Naimur Rahman: It was a great honor to lead the country in the debut Test; nothing is comparable to that feeling. When I started as a player we all dreamt about playing Test cricket one day. It (maiden Test) was a great occasion for Bangladesh cricket, the beginning of a new era and I was lucky that I was picked to lead the team. My Test career was rather short due to a number of reasons but I am happy to be back again as a selector. Cricket is my passion and the offer to associate myself with Bangladesh cricket was too good to turn down.

BanglaCricket: Do you think Bangladesh cricket has made satisfactory progress over the last 7 years?

 Naimur Rahman during Zimbabwe v Bangladesh, 2nd Test Match, Harare Sports Club, 26-30 April 2001.

Naimur Rahman during Zimbabwe v Bangladesh, 2nd Test Match, Harare Sports Club, 26-30 April 2001

Naimur Rahman: We started playing Test cricket without even knowing its full ramification or demands. There was no first class league, no experience (for our players) in the longer version game and no infrastructure to support Test match cricket. The scenario is completely different now; we have developed a pretty strong cricket culture in Bangladesh in this short period of time. We might have failed to achieve significant success in Test cricket but we have managed to strengthen our almost non-existent base. Now we will be able to progress (more) smoothly. It (early days of Test status) was a difficult time for Bangladesh cricket, but as a whole I am not disappointed. At the same time, we have made significant leaps in One Day cricket. Our boys are quite capable of beating any team in the world on a good day. This is a huge difference compared to 2000 when we played international cricket just to be a part of the cricket atmosphere.

BanglaCricket: Why we have failed to transform our success in One Day cricket to Test cricket? The same core group of players is playing both formats but on many occasions we seem incapable of even putting up a semblance of a fight.

Naimur Rahman: Our failure in Test cricket is unfortunate but not unexpected. Look at the foundation for our recent ODI successes. We have had a long culture of competitive one day cricket in Bangladesh. The Dhaka Premier League, which has been our leading, club-based, 50 over competition, has featured players like Wasim Akram, Neil Fairbrother and Arjuna Ranatunga. The atmosphere at the Premier League matches was always very competitive, the financial packages were satisfactory and all these factors helped players to develop the temperament for one day cricket.

Now if we look at the National Cricket League which is our only first class competition, you will find a completely different scenario. In the recent past players were reluctant in participating in the NCL due to poor facilities and the board had to force them by making it mandatory for national team hopefuls. Nevertheless, the poor wickets, afore-mentioned poor facilities, and poor financial package all resulted in rather poor cricket.

The gap between the standard of our domestic cricket and international cricket is still unacceptable and until recently the atmosphere of competitive cricket was completely absent from our first class structure. One cannot expect to develop the temperament of Test cricket without playing serious and competitive 1st class cricket!!

The good news is that some good steps were undertaken over the last 2 years and the current BCB has taken the initiative to make NCL more competitive, increasing the financial rewards for the players. The situation is still at developing stage, but I can assure you that we are heading towards right direction, and we will be able to reap the benefits of these steps within 2-3 years.

BanglaCricket: You have just alluded to the fact that the standard of our domestic cricket is not satisfactory and we have heard this often in the past. Every year we hear that "things will get better". Why it is taking so long to develop the standard?

 Durjoy in full flight

Durjoy in full flight

Naimur Rahman: We lack proper cricket facilities at first class venues except Dhaka. We are still treating cricket as a seasonal, urban-centric sport: indoor facilities, gyms and training academies are almost nonexistent outside Dhaka. The policy makers should understand that the players' interest should come first. Players need proper facilities, not makeshift ones to raise their game. They also need financial security and a competitive environment. We need sporting wickets where both batsman and bowler will get equal opportunities to perform. It takes time to change a culture, to put in the infrastructure, etc. We are still in the transition stage and it will take some more time to develop the standard.

BanglaCricket: You are taking on the responsibility of a selector after a successful stint by the Faruk Ahmed led national selection panel; one during which they have firmly established the role of "professional national selector" in Bangladesh cricket. Do you feel any extra pressure as one of their successor?

Naimur Rahman: The last panel did a pretty good job and we (the current panel) want to carry on from where they have left. Selection is a continuous process and we aim to do even better. I have a feeling that they (previous panel) may have had a tad too much experimentation in the national team, which in some cases has backfired. The current panel wants to learn from their mistakes and we want to form a more stable national team.

BanglaCricket: So ... are you planning for any major changes in selection policy?

Naimur Rahman: Not really. I don’t think there is scope for major changes in the selection policy. In some cases our previous selection committee tried to groom some players at the international level but some of them could not cope with the pressure and eventually we lost their service. I want to make the players ready for the national team before handing them the national cap. We want to get maximum output and longer service from national players and don’t want to expose young players (to the rigors of the top-flight level) too early. It takes time to make a player and losing them early is a huge loss for our cricket. Selection is not an individual decision, we have a panel of three and I am only a member there. I will try to espouse my personal vision as it fits in the framework for the greater interest of Bangladesh cricket.

BanglaCricket: Bangladesh is a very young team and the few regular senior players we have, the Habibul Bashars, Mohammad Rafiques or Khaled Masuds are all on the brink of retirement. Do you think we still need them for guiding the young players?

Naimur Rahman: We need a blend of experience and youth, especially in Test cricket. As long as the seniors are physically fit and performing, they will be always considered for selection. Players like Habibul Bashar and Khaled Masud are still required in the Bangladesh team; we should not forget their past contributions on account of their failures in one or two series. At the same time we have to groom their successors as no one can play for an indefinite period. We have good back-ups for Rafique in Enamul Junior and Md. Razzak, Mushfiqur Rahim is slow gaining experience to replace Khaled Masud.

In ODIs and T20 cricket we (the selection panel) have already identified a core group of younger players and we should stick to them for the next couple of years unless someone from outside that group demonstrates extraordinary performances.

BanglaCricket: Bangladesh’s next away series is with New Zealand, typically a very tough tour for sub-continent teams. What will be your vision in selecting the New Zealand bound squad?

Naimur Rahman: We don’t want to make too many changes in the current squad. There might be some changes which are required and we will only try to focus on those places. We want to rely on experienced and performing players for this difficult tour. There are some young players performing consistently in the domestic league, but we don’t to throw them into the big test in New Zealand conditions as this might dent their confidence. We have to understand there is a huge value to experience in Test cricket, especially in difficult conditions.

BanglaCricket: What do you expect from Bangladesh against the Black Caps?

Naimur Rahman: As I have said previously, it will be a tough tour for Bangladesh. We can only select the players; it is they who have to perform on the field to get a positive result. The seniors must take responsibility on a tour like this so that the young players can play their natural game and don’t feel too much pressure. It’s difficult to guess the outcome but I am staying positive.

BanglaCricket: As you mentioned young players, I wanted to know about your views on Imrul Kayes, Zunaed Siddique and Nazimuddin who are performing well in the NCL.

Naimur Rahman: We have a good number of young players who are performing well in the domestic cricket. Nazimuddin is one of the more technically sound players in the pipeline, but he is still young and learning. He has performed quite well with the A team in different conditions, but I want to give him some more time before considering him for Test cricket.

Zunaed and Imrul have just started playing cricket. They should go through the Academy and A team before getting the national cap for Tests and ODI. Zunaed is a good find for us in the Twenty20 cricket. Both will get their opportunities in due time.

BanglaCricket: Tushar Imran and Alok Kapali: both of them were successful A team players but failed to translate their success at international level despite countless opportunities. Any thoughts on them?

Naimur Rahman: Every player is different and does not enjoy the same level of success at different levels. Alok was given a good number of opportunities but Tushar was unlucky in many cases. They will remain in our minds as long as they are working hard and performing in the domestic cricket. Nobody is discarded permanently, there is always a chance to comeback. This applies not only for Tushar or Alok but also for all other players who were discarded at different times for different reasons.

BanglaCricket: We have seen in the past that some players like Al Shahriar, Ehsanul Haque were continuously ignored despite scoring heavily in the domestic league. Do you want to open the door even for them?

Naimur Rahman: Why not? If they can remain fit and perform consistently, they will always be in the frame of things.

BanglaCricket: In the past politics within the board has sometimes been blamed for some selection decisions. Do you think current selection committee can remain free from political influences?

Naimur Rahman: There is no place for politics in our cricket infrastructure or processes. What happened in the past should remain in the past. No one knows better than me about the ill effect of politics on a player’s career. I personally want to make selection process fair and free from any outside influences.

BanglaCricket: Do you think selectors’ role should not just be restricted to declaring squads? Should they also influence the selection of the playing XI?

Naimur Rahman: It depends on situation. We don’t want to influence the decisions of the team management in any tour, but in the home series we might give some input on the playing XI. I don’t think there is a universal policy on this.

BanglaCricket: Bangladesh bowling is often branded as one dimensional , after your departure from international scene we have not unearthed a single quality off-spinner or leg-spinner. Your thoughts on this issue?

Naimur Rahman: The success of Rafique as a bowler might be the reason behind the good number of SLA prospects the team enjoys. Having said that, we desperately need a good off or leg break bowler who can serve Bangladesh cricket for a long time; especially in Test cricket. Once we find someone, youngsters will be inspired with his success and will take off-spin or leg-spin more seriously. We are working on this issue but finding a quality spinner is a lengthy process, it will not happen overnight.

BanglaCricket: Recently Mohammad Ashraful was appointed as the Bangladesh captain. You have played with him. How do you rate him as a captain?

Naimur Rahman: Ashraful knows his cricket very well. He has just started as a Captain and is still learning the art of captaincy. I am hopeful about his future as Bangladesh captain and he is quite capable of leading his team from the front with exceptional performances.

BanglaCricket: Any comments on the 4 year tenure of Dav Whatmore?

Naimur Rahman: I am satisfied with the progress made in the ODI cricket under Dav Whatmore. He transformed a losing side into a winning outfit and instilled confidence, but I am not happy with our performance in the Test cricket. There was too much experimentation and thus too many changes in the squads. He doesn't seem to have worked with individual players in terms of establishing them in the longer version of the game. In my opinion more work should have been done in Test cricket for a sustainable development of Bangladesh cricket.

BanglaCricket: After a lengthy delay, BCB has finally appointed Jamie Siddons as Bangladesh coach. Can you give us your perspective?

Naimur Rahman: I think the BCB has made a very good choice here. He was a very good batsman and has an excellent coaching pedigree. I am looking forward to work with him.

BanglaCricket: Do you want to see Siddons and Ashraful within the selection committee as a member?

Naimur Rahman: It’s a policy decision and BCB should decide on it. I would definitely like to consult with them before selecting the squad.

BanglaCricket: One final question. Where do you want to see Bangladesh cricket at the end of your 3 years tenure as a selector?

Naimur Rahman: Do you mean in ranking? I don’t want to correlate development with ranking. Nowadays almost every team takes Bangladesh seriously in ODI matches. I want to see Bangladesh earning the same level of respect in Test matches. We also have a vision for 2011 World Cup Cricket in which we are a co-host. We want do better than our performance in the last world cup to make it a memorable event for Bangladesh. To achieve our target, we want to build a strong A team culture along with Academy and age group teams. There should be a smooth transition from age group teams, where we are performing quite well, to the national team so that a player becomes ready for international cricket.

BanglaCricket: Thank you very much for your valuable time and thoughts about Bangladesh cricket.

Naimur Rahman:Thank you for providing this forum to connect with our fans.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Marathon coach hunt by BCB, inefficency or lack of prfessionalism?

Bangladesh cricket is passing through difficult times, not only on the field but also off the field. In fact off the field incidents are making on the field display even more difficult. Bangladesh is without a coach for last 3 months and that might extend to another 6-7 months. This is awful from the cricket administration of a full member nation.

Dav Whatmore made it public during Bangladesh's world cup campaign that he would leave Bangladesh for new challenge. The decision was conveyed to the board in March 2007, that means Bangladesh Cricket Board failed to find a successor of Dav Whatmore in over 6 months time. All four Asian team lost their coach after the world cup and Bangladesh is the only team still remain vacant despite knowing it first. This is unacceptable to say the least.

Bangladesh requested Dav Whatmore to stay in charge for the India tour which was held in May 2007, a decision which came under heavy criticism for due reasons. They turned to BCB game development manager Shaun Williams for the crucial Sri Lanka tour and the results only show the need of a proper coach, not a makeshift one. Finally BCB announced a short list of three candidates with reasonable reputations. Jamie Siddons from Commonwealth Bank academy, former Australia women team coach John Harmer and Zimbabwe legend Dave Houghton.

In mean time army backed caretaker government dissolved previous board and revamped board with people of their choice in a bid to fight against alleged corruption. The new look BCB headed by an army general failed to realize the immediate need of a cricket coach, and instead of accelerating the coach hunt they effectively stopped the ongoing process.

BCB, not willing to learn from their previous mistake, have again appointed Shaun Williams as interim manager for Twenty20 world cup. Now alarmingly they are not expecting to appoint a permanent coach even before the vital New Zealand tour scheduled in December.

When Bangladesh needed a face lift after their poor display against India and Sri Lanka, this decision came as a severe blow to their cricketing prospect against the Kiwis. This single decision can further mar the struggling reputation of Bangladesh as a Test team. If BCB fail to realize the importance, more worrying days are waiting for Bangladesh cricket.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Bangladesh make changes to avoid whitewash in the ODI series

Bangladesh think tank has opted for couple of changes in the third and final ODI against Sri Lanka in a desperate bid to avoid whitewash. Sri Lanka have already gained an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three match Laqshya series by defeating Bangladesh comfortably in the first two ODIs.

Mahmudullah Riyad, can a new face help saving blushes?

Mahmudullah Riyad, can a new face help saving blushes? © Cricinfo

To bring solidity to the top order batting, Bangladesh have picked veteran opener Javed Omar in place of struggling Shahriar Nafees and Tushar Imran, who made a duck and 9 in last two matches, is also dropped in favour of uncapped off-spinning all-rounder Mahmudullah Riyad.

Bangladesh have shown some improved performances in the bowling and fielding departments in the ODI series, but top order batting has let them down throughout the tour.

Bangladesh pace spearhead Mashrafe Mortaza failed to recover from his sprained right ankle and is ruled out of the third ODI. The match will be played tomorrow (Wednesday) at R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.


Bangladesh: Mohammad Ashraful (Captain), Tamim Iqbal, Javed Omer Belim, Mushfiqur Rahim, Aftab Ahmed, Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah Riyad, Farhad Reza, Abdur Razzak, Shahadat Hossain Rajib, Syed Rasel.

Sri Lanka (From) : Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Chamara Silva, Tilakaratne Dilshan, Chamara Kapugedera, Jehan Mubarak, Farveez Maharoof, Dilhara Fernando, Lasith Malinga, Malinga Bandara, Nuwan Kulasekera, Upul Chandana

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Bangladesh look to youth in the first ODI against Sri Lanka

Bangladesh team management have announced a youthful playing XI for the first one day match against Sri Lanka leaving out veteran opener Javed Omar and lanky pace bowler Shahadat Hossain. The match will start tomorrow (Friday) at 4:30 GMT at P Sara stadium in Colombo.

The average age of the Bangladesh squad is only 22 in which left arm spinner Abdur Razzak is the oldest at the age of 25. The fearless attitude of Bangladesh youth brigade earned significant respect after defeating

Bangladesh look to youth in the first ODI

Bangladesh look to youth in the first ODI ©Cricinfo

India and South Africa in the last world cup, and team management will be hoping a similar performance to salvage the pride after a poor Test series.

Bangladesh were completely outplayed by Sri Lanka in the Test series and lost the series 3-0. Bangladesh is desperately looking for some credible performances from the young guns to turn the table around in the ODI series.

Bangladesh captain Mohammad Ashraful wants to build on the ODI success achieved over the last 12-13 months and is confident to put up a much better performance on the field compared to the Test series.

"We have played a lot of one-day matches over the last 12-13 months and have a good success rate. I am confident that we will put up a much improved performance in the ODI series. We want to win at least one match”, said Ashraful.

"We want a good start whether it is in batting or bowling. I think if that happens then that will set us up nicely for the rest of the match as the players would feel a lot more confident", he added.


Bangladesh: Shahriar Nafees, Tamim Iqbal, Tushar Imran, Mohammad Ashraful (capt), Shakib al Hassan, Aftab Ahmed, Mushfiqur Rahim, Farhad Reza, Mashrafe Mortaza, Syed Rasel, Abdur Razzak

Sri Lanka (from): Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Chamara Silva, Tilakaratne Dilshan, Chamara Kapugedera, Jehan Mubarak, Farveez Maharoof, Dilhara Fernando, Lasith Malinga, Malinga Bandara, Nuwan Kulasekera, Upul Chandana

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Where do we stand now? Part -2

Bangladesh started their campaign in international cricket through a 22 run victory in a low scoring match against Fiji in 1979 ICC Trophy. After playing 41 ICC trophy matches with mixed success (26 win, 14 loss, 1 no result) and equal number of ODIs with even lesser success (3 win - Pakistan, Kenya, Scotland and 38 loss), Bangladesh was awarded test status in June, 2000. Bangladesh played first ever test match in November 2000 against India at Bangabandhu National Stadium. After gaining test status they played 44 test matches with a solitary win against Zimbabwe and lost as many as 39 matches. We enjoyed some reasonable successes in ODI and managed 25 wins out of 102 outings.
Awarding test status to Bangladesh is one of the most heavily criticized decisions of ICC and Bangladesh still remains under the microscope of cricket pundits as a test nation. After obtaining the elite status Bangladesh suffered hiccups with religious regularity raising constant concern about the future of Bangladesh cricket.
The picture looks gloomier in the longer version of the game. Apart from Shahriar Nafees and Habibul Bashar in batting and Mohammad Rafiq and Mashrafe Mortaza in bowling, we really don't have players to challenge quality opposition, let alone winning. Habibul Bashar scored about one fifth of all the runs Bangladesh scored in test cricket while Mohammad Rafique took more than one third of all the wickets Bangladesh took in test matches he played. These simple stats only illustrate the poor show by the rest of the players.
In batting, Bangladesh must find suitable alternatives to veteran Javed Omar, Alok Kapali and Tushar Imarn. Neither of them returned enough to keep the faith on and their inclusions make the fragile test batting even more brittle. Mohammad Ashraful must improve his consistency to keep his place in the side. Aftab Ahmed so far failed to take the responsibility of test batting. And the rookies Sakib Al Hasan and Farhad Reza lack technique and experience to seal a deal. Rajin Saleh looks gritty at times but again lacks both consistency and technique which saw Bangladesh paid dearly in some matches. Like ODI team, Bangladesh must find a decent wicketkeeper batsman.

As mentioned previously, bowling is a major concern in our test side. Apart from Mohammad Rafiq no single bowler has the bite in their bowling to win test matches. Enamul Huq Jr. is a very good bowler but still lacks wicket taking ability against quality oppositions, more so on foreign grounds. Mashrafee Mortaza's success in ODI never really translated in tests mainly due to his fitness problem. There is some real hope in Shahadat Hossain who showed the aggressiveness required to be a successful test bowler. The situation looks even ominous unless someone comes up in style and takes the candle from aging Rafiq on time.

The overall situation might look depressing but it is the painful reality. In this situation the ray of light is the young generations who started playing competitive cricket knowing that one day they will feature Bangladesh in tests. These young players have dominated their counterparts in age group level and they believe they can continue dominating them in the world arena. They are declaring their emergence in the domestic circuit as well. It is really encouraging that we have emerging players in almost every discipline. Bangladesh Cricket Board has already taken initiatives to improve domestic infrastructure and formed long cherished Cricket Academy for potential young players. Now, it’s very important to guide and nurture them properly before throwing them in the deep. They are the ray of light, the future of Bangladesh cricket.
Read full

This is what I wrote in February 2007 and was published in my column "Ray of Light" at BanglaCricket. After todays loss I was revisiting the column and really disappointed to find that situation hasn't improved at all.

Some thing changed like captaincy and coach, but the overall performance of the team have probably dipped alarmingly low.

Bashar forgot to score runs, Rafiq has lost his touch, Masharfe is looking simply ineffective. There goes all the hope. Rajin is tirelessly proving his inability and SN is losing his temperament. Aftab has lost his place in the Test team.

The only change is probably Ashraful who secured his place and became captain. Another development can be Mushfiqur Rahim, a more capable wicketkeeper batsman.

The most frightening part is the last paragraph where I mentioned that the young generation will see us through Test cricket. and will do the rescue act. It looks they are not ready yet to play Test cricket. It's early to comment but both Sakib Al Hasan and Mehrab Jr. looks shaky as a Test player. Razzak is not at all penetrating in Tests like ODI, and Enamul Jr. is appeari8ng as a completely different bowler compared to what we saw in 2005.

Now who is around the corner to rescue? I don't see many assured faces. I hope the series against Sri Lanka is really a one off one, transition period after Dav Whatmore, new captaincy and tough opposition, all contributed for the downfall.

I would like to believe that situation will only improve from here, but to be honest, it's looking more ominous than ever before.

Where do we stand now?

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Bangladesh aim to restore pride in the dead rubber

Bangladesh, mauled by the Lankan Lions in the first two Test, are desperately looking for some rescue act by top order batsman to restore some pride in the thirst and final Test match of the Laqshya series due to start tomorrow in Kandy Asgiriya Stadium.

Bangladesh have flown in A team captain Tushar Imran to stabilise the fragile middle order who had an excellent Sri Lanka tour

Tushar Imran is flown in to perform rescue act

Tushar Imran is flown in to perform rescue act © Cricinfo

with Bangladesh A team in early this year. Mehrab Hossain Jr. who made his debut in the second Test lost his place to make way for Tushar.

Bangladesh is approaching the match with three pacers and left arm paceman Syed Rasel finally received the nod of the team management ahead of out-of-sort Mohammad Sharif who played in the first two Tests without any success.

Traditionally the wicket of Kandy is pacer friendly and offers movement in early hours. Bangladesh captain Mohammad Ashraful is expecting to win first toss as Captain to exploit the condition. Bangladesh lost the toss on previous occasions and were blown away in their first innings in both Tests played in Colombo.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka are aiming the whitewash to keep the momentum going. Sri Lanka have brought in all-rounder Farveez Maharoof in place of Chaminda Vaas who was released after the second Test for his county duty with Middlesex.

Upul Tharanga, who suffered a hairline fracture on the left foot during a practice session, is set to start in the third Test and Sujeewa De Silva might get the chance to impress as Sri Lankan management wants to explore the reserves in the dead rubber match.


Bangladesh from: Javed Omar, Nafees Ahmed, Rajin Saleh, Habibul Bashar, Mohammad Ashraful (capt), Tushar Imran, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Syed Rasel, Mashrafe Mortaza, Mohammad Rafique, Shahadat Hossain.

Sri Lanka from: Upul Tharanga, Michael Vandort, Malinda Warnapura, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Chamara Silva, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Sujeewa de Silva.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

The untold story of Mohammad Ashraful, the flag bearer of Bangladesh Cricket

On a winter day of 1993 at the Sidhdheswary cricket training ground, one of the breeding grounds of many national cricketers, a couple of net practices were going on. Former Bangladesh skipper Khaled Mahmud Sujon and Imran Hamid Partho were doing serious net practice for Amarjyoti, a club that used to play in the second division cricket league. Mohammad Rafique, ace spinner of Bangladesh, had played for Amarjyoti in the previous season and was also there to share the net practice. Cricket in Bangladesh in those days were easily outclassed by football and Bangladesh were only playing ICC Trophy without any apparent success.

A young boy of about 9-10 was a regular feature at the net practices. He always arrived in time dressed in cricket whites; a bit oversized on his lean body. He was happy to work as a net boy, nothing more. Day after day, month after month he continued to be a regular feature of the practice session of Amarjyoti club. The club completed one season in the second division league, net practice stopped and the boy was not seen anywhere near the Sidhdheswary ground for the rest of the year.

Next year, the net session started and everyone was surprised to see the boy, back again to perform his duty with religious regularity. Almost nothing changed; the same face, the same whites and the same dedication. One day Khaled Mahmud, captain of Amarjyoti club, asked him, “Do you want to be a cricketer”? Yes, the answer was very prompt from him. “I can bowl a bit, leg spin bowling. If you allow me, I can show you some,” said the boy who looked no more than 9-10 years old. Surprisingly enough, Mahmud listened to the boy's appeal.

Imperial Ashraful

Imperial Ashraful

The first batsman in the net was Imran Hamid Partho, a dashing left handed opener who later played for Bangladesh A and Abahani. At that time he was a leading performer for Amarjyouti and was particularly merciless against spinners. With all the concentration in the world, the young boy delivered his first ever ball in the competitive world of cricket. The ball, which could have disappeared from the small field, deceived Imran with turn and bounce and Imran missed it completely. In utter disbelief everyone witnessed the incident, Imran was shaking his head. The same thing happened in the next ball and the boy continued to cause all sorts of trouble for Imran. Batsmen came to the net one after another, and the magic continued. After the net session, they boy with a smiling face said, “See, I can bowl leg spin a bit”. He was very happy to become a part of the net session that he had witnessed for years with a dream to participate.

Suddenly the club officials became very interested in the boy and wanted to make sure that he turns up the very next morning. The next day was a busy day for him; the club officials took him to the BCB office of the Bangabandhu National Stadium to get him registered with the club. After searching all available sportswear shops, they somehow managed to find him proper cricket whites, which after a good amount of tailoring, fitted the lean body of the boy.

In the next seven days he bowled as many balls as he wished, and all the players knew they had a match winner in their team. He got the first opportunity to bat in the net after 8 days; it was the day before the first match. More surprise was waiting for everyone in the field; this time the balls were disappearing everywhere with some sweet sound from the willow of the boy. He was playing every type of shots present in the coaching manual with unbelievable ease. Khaled Mahmud, the captain of Amarjyoti, exclaimed in surprise, “You really bat well, exceptional”. “I am basically a bowler who can bat a bit”, was the modest answer from the boy.

Match day. Everyone in the field was very astonished to see the name a very young boy in the playing XI of Amarjyoti. After first 10 overs, Mahmud turned to the young prodigy. The umpire asked the name of the bowler. "Ashraful….Mohammad Ashraful," was the answer. The leg spinner Ashraful won the match for Amarjyoti.

A talent was born and history was being made. Ashraful got the return of all his dedication and sincerity. A net boy, who passed days after days collecting ball from the net without any return, became the most valuable player of the team at the age of 10.

At that time, former spinner and Mohammedan player, Wahidul Gani was a leading mentor of young cricketers. Mahmud took Ashraful to Wahidul Gani to show the talent he had discovered. On the very first day Gani realized the arrival of a star in his training camp. Ashraful became a very special student of Wahidul Gani, and the mentor used all his expertise to shape up the future of Bangladesh cricket.

Ashraful stayed with Amarjyoti for only one season. In the very next season he moved to Victoria Sporting Club who were playing in the first division cricket league. Time started to pass very quickly for Ashraful. He was called for Bangladesh age group teams starting from U-13 to U-21’s. A leg spin bowler soon turned into the mainstay of batting in every team he played. In 16th January 2000, he made his debut for U-19 world cup at the age of 15 years and made his first class debut for Dhaka Division in 22nd November 2000.

Within one year, he played for Bangladesh U-19’s in ICC U-19 world cup, Bangladesh U-17’s in ICC U-17 Asia Cup, Dhaka Metropolis in National Cricket League and Bangladesh Cricket Board XI against Australian Academy. After showing his brilliance everywhere, Ashraful finally made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe in April 2001 at the age of 16 years. In September 2001, he made his historic Test debut against Sri Lanka in the Asian Test Championship and hammered a brilliant century to become the youngest player to make a Test century.

Now I will take you to May 1, 2003. Bangladesh were playing the 2nd Test against South Africa in Dhaka. After reducing South Africa to 63-4, Bangladesh failed to keep up the pressure . Rudolph and Boucher were repairing the South African innings and formed a 107 run partnership to lift South Africa to 170-4. Bangladesh captain Khaled Mahmud turned to Mohammad Ashraful and he repaid the faith immediately. He lured Rudolph out of the crease and wicketkeeper Mohammad Selim did the rest. It was like the action replay of something that happened 8 years ago when Amarjyoti captain Khaled Mahmud turned to the unknown 10 year old boy to spin some magic. The characters were the same but the arena was vastly different. Ashraful completed the first cycle of his cricketing career, from a 2nd division club net of Siddheswary ground to the Test match gournds of Bangabandhu National Stadium.

In his roller coaster international career, Ashraful produced some magic with the bat but failed live up to the expectations on numerous occasions. In spite of all of his failures, he was always regarded as the best batsman of Bangladesh cricket, someone who can turn the table around for Bangladesh. Whenever bad days came, he turned to his mentor Wahidul Gani. Gani eagerly waited to see his student and the pair worked hard to see off the hard times. Ashraful's sincerity and dedication always brought him back from the brink of failure.

On June 2, 2007, the Bangladesh Cricket Board appointed Mohammad Ashraful as Bangladesh captain. On the very first day of his glory, he returned to the Sidhdheswary ground, the birth place of the cricketer Ashraful. The lean young boy, who waited for months with sincerity and dedication to get his first chance in the nets, went back to the same field as the flag bearer of Bangladesh cricket.

Friday, 15 June 2007

"Bangladesh will do better in Sri Lanka" - Ashraful

Bangladesh's newly appointed captain Mohammad Ashraful believes Bangladesh will start performing in the test arena from starting with the upcoming Sri Lanka series. According to Ashraful, Bangladesh will perform much better compared to their last outing in Sri Lanka in 2005, which was dubbed as the worst test series played by Bangladesh.

After returning to the test arena after a 13 months break, Bangladesh managed to draw one test and lost the other in the recently concluded two match test series against India.

Bangladesh enter into Ashraful era through Sri Lanka tour

Bangladesh enter into Ashraful era through Sri Lanka tour © Cricinfo

Ashraful, in his first assignment as a captain, wants to work hard to extend each test match to five days with some good batting display.

"My personal team target is to play throughout the five days in all the three tests. We have emphasized on our batting in the practice sessions. All of us have batted for a long time in the nets and the centre wicket. We have been playing good cricket in the ODIs for the last 12-13 months. That is why there is more confidence is the team," said a confident looking Ashraful during the final press briefing before leaving for Colombo.

Despite suffering heavy defeats against the islanders on all previous occasions, the Bangladesh captain is confident of putting up a good fight against Sri Lanka in the away series.

Most teams have struggled there in recent times. We toured Sri Lanka four times but could not play well. But this time I see more self-confidence in every player. Also we have plenty of international experience. That gives me reasons to feel optimistic about this series," said Ashraful.

Ashraful was critical about the form of the top order batsmen in recent times, but remains hopeful that they will learn from their mistakes.

"We did not play well against India in the tests. But after that we practiced a lot in the nets. Our batsmen have a problem with ball selection. We have been working on this for the last seven days. We hope that we will not repeat the same mistakes in the upcoming series."

He was also keen to utilise the three-day warm up match before the test series to acclimatize to Sri Lankan conditions.

"We have a three-day match prior to the test series. We will try to gain more confidence by putting up a good show in that match. We will probably go into that game with the best squad we have."

Most of the Bangladesh?s current crop of players came through age-group cricket and Ashraful, the youngest test captain of Bangladesh, is optimistic that the team spirit of the young Tigers will help each other to lift their game.

"There are a number of players in our team who have been playing together from the under-13, 17, 19 levels. We have also played with the senior players for the last five-six years in the national team. So there is a very good understanding between us. I think it is a plus point for our team".

Bangladesh leave for Sri Lanka on June 17, and the three match test series will kick off on June 25 with first test to be played in Premadasa Stadium, Colombo.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Bangladesh cricket at the crossroads : change of vision required to lift the bar

Bangladesh cricket has entered into the most crucial period after gaining the Test status. A team which progressed significantly over the last few years under the guidance of Dav Whatmore, need some new directions and fresh thoughts to make it to the next level of cricket. With the completion of the current series, Dav Whatmore has already left Bangladesh cricket. He paired with Habibul Bashar, Bangladesh skipper, to lead the renaissance of Bangladesh Cricket. Bashar has already stepped down from ODI captaincy and may find the same fate with Test captaincy. The two person, who were at the centre of Bangladesh cricket over the last four years, are leaving the stage almost simultaneously, and Bangladesh cricket must select right persons to fill their shoes.

The extent of achievements of Whatmore and Bashar can be debatable, but undoubtedly during their tenure, Bangladesh made giant strides in right directions, especially in the shorter version of the game. To translate the successes of the shorter version into the longer version, Bangladesh need a change of guard, not only in the management but also in the thought process.

Now, it's hight time to take some crucial decisions which will determine the fate of Bangladesh cricket over the next few years.

Firstly, coach selection. When Dav Whatmore took the charge of Bangladesh cricket in 2003, he was unambiguously the perfect person to fit the shoe. Bangladesh cricket was hit at the rock bottom, and we needed someone like Dav's stature to lift the image of Bangladesh cricket. He was the ideal person, who could stand firm against fierce criticisms from the world media and instill positive mentality within our cricketers and motivate them despite countless failures. He has done his job; Bangladesh team is now known for its fearless attitudes and has built a positive image. Now it's time to appoint a technical coach. A professional coach, who will work with the techniques of our boys and will be hard working. Not necessarily he has to be high profile coach, but he must be able to stand firm in difficult times and convert Bangladesh to a technically correct team.

Secondly, change in captaincy. When Bashar took over captaincy from Khaled Mahmud, it was one of the most hailed decisions of Bangladesh cricket. He was only consistent performer of Bangladesh team, and performance earned him captaincy. He was never a captaincy material and made numerous tactical errors in both forms of the game. He took "safety first" approach regardless of prevailing situation, the unpredictability and inconsistency of youngsters contributed a lot in his defensive approach.

Bashar and Dav, with support from the selectors, managed to inject some young blood into the team, and these new generation of players have a completely different set of mentality. To be honest, Bashar led the rejuvenation of Bangladesh cricket, but it was the crop of these youngsters attitude coupled with their performances. Ironically, Bashar failed to adapt himself with the new situation and lost his touch completely. He finally decided to quit ODI captaincy, and it's also the time to leave the test captaincy. Intellectually he has nothing left to offer for Bangladesh cricket. He carried the burden of Bangladesh test batting single handedly over the last few years, he should take some time to assess his Test batting and make honest decision for the best interest of Bangladesh cricket.

BCB must appoint a new captain for both forms of the game. A new pair, coach and captain, with bold and positive visions can only take Bangladesh cricket to the next level. It can be either Ashraful or Mashrafe, both positive player and proven performer. It's the high time to make the decision.

Thirdly, the composition of the team.
Time has come to take some strong decisions about some of players. We are carrying them for years without reasonable explanations. Javed Omar, Khaled Mashud has nothing left to offer for Bangladesh team in both forms of the game, same applies to Habibul Bashar in ODIs. We should thank them for their contributions for Bangladesh cricket and move on. Only performance should be the criteria for selection, whether it’s Test or ODI. We have heard enough about experience, only experience cannot buy any success, it must be accompanied by performance. Everyone must understand, it's the young blood who changed the Bangladesh team in ODIs, and only they can change Bangladesh in Tests. We need players like Tamim Iqbal, Aftab Ahmed and Mushfiqur Rahim in the Test team, who can take oppositions to the wire with their aggressive intents. Test cricket has evolved a lot along with ODIs. Now, teams play for win, aggressive players like Adam Gilchrist, Kevin Pietersen, Mahendara Dhoni are ruling Test cricket. Timid approach can only hold us back, time has come to open the eyes and change the thought process.

Lastly, change in the domestic structure. BCB have taken couple encouraging decision to develop domestic cricket and establishment of National Cricket Academy is one of them. A fully functional academy can only groom the youngsters for the future Bangladesh team. Now, in addition to basic skills training, National Academy should be able to cover the following aspects of modern cricket to cope with the evolving cricketing culture, both on and off the pitch.

- Sports Psychology and Visualization
- Addressing issues such as self and group dynamics and self management
- Critical thinking and Problem solving
- Media Relations and how to deal with the press
- Players' contracts, Sponsors and sponsorship

Apart from the academy activities, a major overhaul is needed in the wicket types. Keeping the natural sub-continental wickets in some first class venues, BCB must prepare some sporting wickets which will offer pace and bounce. Only then players will be exposed to different level of challenges and will be able to acclimatize to different conditions. Financial security of the first class cricketers is another important issue which BCB must deal professionally. First class players should be able to earn their livelihood through playing cricket, so that they can fully concentrate on the development of the game which in turn will enhance the quality of the domestic cricket.

Finally, If we want to progress as a cricketing nation and solve our Test woes, we must take correct decisions about these issues. Bangladesh Cricket Board want to follow Australian model to raise the standard pf the game. I hope they will truly follow the system and will take decisions which will lift the bar and Bangladesh will come out of the dark old days of Test misery.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

When whims dominate over common sense

When whims dominate over common sense, no team can expect to escape humiliation, especially when its Test cricket. No wonder, Bangladesh are paying the price of being whimsical, in short term – a shambolic defeat on Test return, in long term – more depressing developments are on the way. It takes quite some time to build any image, and takes no time to tarnish it. Bangladesh took a very wrong time to ruin its hard earned image in a series which was branded as grudge series, especially after the happenings of March 17 in Trinidad and Tobago.

Fierce and relentless criticism is a part and parcel of Bangladesh Test history. After some significant developments over the last few years, it appeared Bangladesh have finally managed to leap forward, and those dark old days will remain as the birth pain of Bangladesh cricket. The coach and captain, who led the renaissance of Bangladesh cricket, made a horrendous mistake to remind everyone the dark old days of Bangladesh Test cricket, ironically in the last Test of Whatmore as Bangladesh coach. Nothing could be more shameful for him to see the largest dip in performance graph during his tenure, and he played a crucial role to create this painful mess.

Everyone expected Bangladesh will put up a good show after drawing the Chittagong Test, and Whatmore’s farewell Test added some more light into it. Habibul Bashar, who rued his luck with tosses in the past, managed to win the toss and through that gained the right to use the wonderful batting surface ahead of their opponents. Bangladesh were already depleted due to absence of Shahadat Hossain, one of the hero of Chittagong Test, another premier bowler Mashrafe Mortaza was struggling with fitness, and Mohammad Sharif made a Test comeback after 5 years injury break. Bashar probably had the ideal stage to take the easiest decision on earth after winnings the toss, bat first, give the bowlers some time to recover and use the fresh legs to dismantle India after posting a good total on a placid surface.

Unfortunately for Bangladesh, the decision which looked obvious didn’t turn out to be reality, for inexplicable reason, Whatmore and Bashar decided to play the worst gamble of Test cricket history. They invited a batting line-up to use the surface first in which the first five batsmen share about 500 Test caps and 30,000 Test runs between them. What went through their mind in the very moment will be never known, misreading the wicket is a lame excuse, a captain of 43 Tests and a coach with 13 years experience in the sub-continent should be able to assess the wicket condition.

India took the unexpected gift with both hands, and piled a mammoth total to take the game away from Bangladesh. To be honest, Indians have only played according to the merit of the situation, its Bangladesh, who threw the game away at the very beginning and Indians were lucky to be at the receiving end.

In the process of posting an imposing total of 610-3d, Indians made records after records to rub the salt to the wound generously exposed to them by Bangladesh. After 160 overs of testing time under hot and humid conditions, India finally decided to give some relief to the Bangladeshi bowlers. They could have easily broken many other batting records, but they decided to toy the batsmen, after dismantling the bowling attack.

And the inevitable happened, Bangladeshi batsmen came in the middle with a mountain to climb, after the exhausting two days in the field; they were battered mercilessly by the Indian new ball bowlers. Bangladesh, initially reduced to 7-4, finished the day on 58-5, and the captain, who brought so much misery to the team with the decision, have contributed only 4 with the bat. Bangladeshi players have finally got some rest in the pavilion, but definitely not they way they would have liked.

India take command in Dhaka Test

India took full advantage of an inexplicable decision by Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar to put them in on a batting paradise, and ended day one on 326 without loss of any wicket in the second and final Test in Dhaka today (Friday).

Indian openers took the gift by Bangladesh captain with both hands and punished the depleted Bangladesh attack under exhausting conditions on a placid surface. After seeing the early hours with caution, Indian openers Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik dominated the rest part of the day with stroke full innings and shared a record breaking 175 run opening partnership to put India in the driving seat.

India take command after toss blunder

India take command after toss blunder ? Cricinfo

Wasim Jaffer, fresh from a Test pair, hammered an elegant 138 off 229 deliveries with 17 boundaries before becoming the second victim of grueling condition. His opening partner Dinesh Karthik was first to go after making 82 off 153 deliveries as hot and humid Mirpur conditions emerged as the most potent opponent to the Indian batsmen.

After the return of the openers to the pavilion, the Indian skipper Rahul Dravid joined the run feast and remained unbeaten on 88 to guide India to a commanding position at stumps.

However, fans' and journalists remained baffled at the end of the day as the mysterious decision of Bangladesh skipper was beyond any cricketing explanations. It is interesting to note that in all previous occasions when Bangladesh won the toss at home, they decided to bat first.

After offering India to use the batting paradise first, Bashar's unimaginative and defensive field setting further dented Bangladesh's hope of remaining alive in the game. The captain positioned himself in the third man and opened the field to let singles flow; Indian batsmen gracefully milked the hapless Bangladeshi bowling taking full toll of the mistakes.

Bangladesh also failed to capitalize on their opportunities, and dropped vital catches in the early on in the Indian innings. Karthik was dropped at 10 by Shakib Al Hasan at second slip when he edged a Syed Rasel delivery, and Mohammad Rafique failed to grab a simple return catch from Wasim Jaffer in his first over after lunch. Umpiring mistakes continued to haunt Bangladesh, and Daryl Harper failed to give Dinesh Karthik out who edged a Mohammad Sharif delivery to wicketkeeper Khaled Mashud.

Earlier, Bangladesh started the game with a depleted bowling attack as lanky paceman Shahadat Hossain missed out due to high fever and Mohammad Sharif, who last played Test in 2002, entered the fray. Bangladesh also picked Syed Rasel in place of Enamul Huq Jr to strengthen the pace bowling attack.

However, neither Sharif nor Rasel managed to pose any threat to Indian line-up with their military medium pace, and the bowling attack remained wicket less after 90 overs of play. Among Bangladeshi bowlers only Mashrafe Mortaza showed some character despite suffering ankle injury in his 10th over, but failed to do any damage to Indian party.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

2nd Test preview : Batting remains concern for Bangladesh in Whatmore's farewell Test

After drawing the rain affected first Test in Chittagong with some creditable performances, Bangladesh is heading towards the series deciding final Test at Dhaka with the desire to record their first Test victory against a quality opposition. To achieve this goal, Bangladesh must find a way to get to the bottom of their batting problems, which they have been facing since their inception as a Test team. The match will start at 9:30 AM local time at the Mirpur Shere Bangla Stadium on Friday.

Bangladesh are keen to offer a farewell gift to Dav Whatmore

Bangladesh are keen to offer a farewell gift to Dav Whatmore © Cricinfo

This will be Dav Whatmore's last Test in charge, and Bangladesh will be keen to offer him a farewell gift with a credible performance on the field. Nothing would be more befitting than a Test win for Whatmore, who worked for four long years to make Bangladesh a competitive side.

Bangladesh can take some positives from the Chittagong Test, but to be truthful, the weakness of Bangladesh as a Test team was badly exposed within the time rain allowed play. Some extra-ordinary performances from the pace duo, Mashrafe Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain saved the blushes and prevented humiliation. But, the batting woes that are hunting Bangladesh in Tests are still far from being over.

The generous Bangladeshi batsmen did no harm to their reputation by gifting away wickets against a rather mediocre and inexperienced Indian bowling attack. After rallying parade to the pavilion with some clueless shots, they waited for some miracle to happen. Two fast bowlers, who did their premium duty responsibly, came forward as the savoir of the team. They believed in themselves, effectively mixed aggression with caution and rescued Bangladesh. They showed way to the batsmen, but unfortunately our batsmen are not willing to learn from their mistakes.

However, this is not the end of the story, when opportunity was there to go for a win; batsmen again failed to take up the challenge and decided to shut the shop, even before attempting to win. Obviously, bowlers who batted and bowled with lot of hearts, were not in the scene to lead the chase, and they witnessed how their fellow Tigers settled for a tame draw.

A draw on return to the Test cricket after a break of 13 months is definitely praiseworthy, and Bangladesh deserves some pat in the back for their efforts. However, the way of achieving the draw does not indicate the progress which we were eagerly waiting to see.

Now, Bangladesh must solve their batting mystery to do well in the second Test, which is expected to run for 5 days without much interruption from nature. Batsmen have to take the responsibility for their action; they have to put value to their wickets. They must understand that Test cricket is not a charity show, and presenting wickets to the oppositions is not considered as a noble piece of work.

On paper, India is definite favourite to win the Test and they will come hard all guns blazing to secure the series. But favourites not necessarily win matches, first Test in Chittagong have revealed several weaknesses of current Indian outfit, and Bangladesh must capitalize on that. At the same time, we must change our approach towards the game. Playing for a draw will never evade defeat in Test cricket, playing for a win can only ensure a positive result, whether it?s win or a fighting draw.

Chittagong Test has made it clear that Team India is largely dependent on their experienced pros. They are carrying all the burdens of expectations and are the key performers by miles, which further reveal the mediocrity of the younger generations of Team India. In batting, Dravid, Sachin and Sourav are big names and India?s success will be completely dependent on their success. If Bangladesh can restrict their domination on the middle, the rest of the batting order will crumble and lack of quality all-rounder in the late order will not help India?s cause.

On the other hand, Indian bowling is lacking bites especially in the absence of Kumble, and the 9th wicket rearguard by Mashrafe and Shahadat in the Chittagong Test has badly exposed the truth. However, question remains whether our top-order batting can utilize the weakness before signing their suicide notes?

The weather is looking good, and better drainage system of Mirpur Stadium will probably ensure play for the best part of the Test. India is having their premier bowler Anil Kumble back for the Test. After the morale boosting draw in Chittagong, Bangladesh is expected to fight in Dhaka and a balanced performance from all departments of the team can only keep Bangladesh on the hunt for their first ever Test series victory against a quality opposition.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Defiant Mortaza rescues Bangladesh in Chittagong

A brilliant all-round performance by Mashrafe Mortaza saved the blushes of Bangladesh as they averted the follow-on on the fourth day of the first Test at Chittagong Divisional Stadium on Monday.

After taking 4 wickets with ball which is his premium duty, Mashrafe struck a brilliant 79 off 91 balls to lift Bangladesh from a tottering 122/7. Mashrafe found his new ball partner Shahadat Hossain as perfect company in his rescue act, and they shared an invaluable 77 run partnership in the 9th wicket to keep India at bay. Shahadat scored a career best 31 off 55 balls with 5 boundaries.

Defiant Mortaza rescue Bangladesh in Chittagong

Defiant Mortaza rescues Bangladesh in Chittagong © Cricinfo

It was Mortaza, who started the fight back as Bangladesh top order batsmen hurried to the pavilion with rash shots and poor judgments. He forced Indian think-tank to change the game plan as he was equally aggressive against both spinners and pace bowlers. He started with a huge hit over mid-wicket for maximum and continued his breathtaking display of shots to guide Bangladesh towards safety. In his career best 79 which is also his maiden half century in test cricket, Mortaza hammered seven boundaries and three huge sixes.

Earlier, India decided to bat on as play resumed after a frustrating wash-out on the third day. India failed to capitalize on the decision, as Bangladesh picked two quick wickets which forced India to declare at 387/8, adding only 3 runs with their overnight score.

Anil Kumble was ill and didn?t turn up to bat, and Zaheer Khan perished in the third ball he faced nicking Shahadat Hossain to wicketkeeper Khaled Mashud without disturbing the scoreboard. Dhoni followed immediately, as he tried force on a delivery off Mashrafe Mortaza that pitched just outside the off stump and Javed Omar took a simple catch at point.

Bangladesh made a stuttering start as they lost two quick wickets early on in their innings. Javed Omar was first to go, as he was adjudged LBW to a delivery that clearly pitched outside the leg stump. RP Singh was the lucky bowler to get the nod from umpire Billy Doctrove.

Captain Habibul Bashar added further misery to his batting form, and played a reckless shot to get himself out for a duck in the third ball he faced. Sachin Tendulkar took a nice reflex catch in the first slip as Bashar edged an away delivery off Zaheer Khan without moving his feet. After the dismissal of Bashar, Bangladesh tried to repair the damage and Shahriar Nafees shared a 27 run partnership with Rajin Saleh with ease. Unfortunately for Bangladesh, when things were looking good, Shahriar Nafees lost his cool and edged one straight delivery of Zaheer Khan to Tendulkar at first slip. Nafees, who scored 32 with two boundaries, was again guilty of playing away from the body.

The misery continued after lunch, newly appointed Bangladesh vice-captain, Mohammad Ashraful played a nothing shot, as he glided a delivery to gully to the safe hands of Dinesh Karthik., leaving Bangladesh tottering at 58-4. Debutant Shakib Al Hasan paired with Rajin Saleh and started to repair the innings with some positive but cautious stroke play. The pair shared a useful 56 run partnership before Indian bowlers picked them up. Shakib was first to go, a rising delivery from VRV Singh clipped the inside edge of his bat on to the stumps and Bangladesh middle order collapsed in a space of 7 overs. Saleh followed him almost immediately after making a polished 41, when he tried to cut a Ramesh Powar delivery against the spin, only finding Sourav Ganguly at point.

Bangladesh collapsed to 122/7 from 114/4, and follow on looked inevitable, as Khaled Mashud was unlucky to be given LBW to a delivery that would have missed leg stump, and also took a faint edge before hitting the pad. At that point India were on top, and expected to wrap Bangladesh innings within 150, Mashrafe Mortaza started his fight back.

At first, he shared a 27 run partnership with Mohammad Rafique to guide Bangladesh to close to the follow-on target, and then he formed the best partnership of the day with his new ball partner Shahadat Hossain. The pair played positive cricket shots all over the park and Indian attack looked ordinary for that part of the match. Indian skipper Rahul Dravid rotated his attack but failed to break the partnership.

Shahadat started slowly but started to cut loose as Bangladesh were approaching to the follow-on mark. A googly from Sachin Tendulkar returned him to the pavilion, but only after Bangladesh averted the follow-on. Mashrafe continued his stroke play after losing the partner and was finally denied by an over pitched delivery from RP Singh that kept low. Bangladesh were finally all-out for 238 conceding a 149 run deficit in the first innings.

The spirited performance of the Bangladeshi pacers with bat continued with ball, and Shahadat Hossain picked two quick wickets to reduce India to 6/2. Wasim Jaffer got a pair in the match as his mistimed pull shot found Habibul Bashar at mid-off and an acrobatic catch by Rajin Saleh returned Dravid to the pavilion.

Sachin Tendulkar and Dinesh Karthik prevented any further damage and India finished day 4 on 44 for 2, taking an overall lead of 193 runs. If weather permits a full days of play on fifth and final day, an exciting finish might be on the cards in Chittagong tomorrow.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Bowlers keep Bangladesh alive in Chittagong Test

Bangladesh bowlers fought hard to keep Bangladesh alive in the first Test of the GrameenPhone series against India on day two which was marred by rain and wet outfield.

India lost 3 wickets in the days play and added 89 runs to their overnight score of 295/3, as wet outfield, caused by overnight shower and early morning drizzle, allowed only 20 overs play on the second day at Chittagong Divisional Stadium on Saturday.

Bowlers keep Bangladesh alive in Chittagong Test

Bowlers keep Bangladesh alive in Chittagong Test © Cricinfo

However, the day will be remembered for two brilliant centuries from two legends of Indian cricket, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar. It was the first Test century for Ganguly in two years time and he continues his impressive comeback to the Indian Test squad. He smashed 304 runs in seven innings at an average of 52.33, since his return to Test cricket in December 2006.

Surprisingly enough, both the experienced pros, Tendulkar and Ganguly, perished in similar fashion, just after reaching the century mark.

Ganguly was first to go after sharing a record 189 run 4th wicket partnership with Tendulkar. He received an awkward bouncer from Shahadat Hossain to complete his 13th Test century and was dismissed in the very next over without adding any more runs. Ganguly was hurried to a short of length ball from Mashrafe Mortaza, and the miscued pull could only reach the hands of Mohammad Rafique at mid off.

Tendulkar followed the footsteps of Ganguly, and played with extreme caution to reach his record 36th Test century. A rare lapse of concentration from the little genius saw the ball ballooned in the air when he tried to cut loose after reaching the century. The shot was identical to that of Ganguly, this time the bowler was Shahadat Hossain.

Ganguly smashed thirteen boundaries and 2 sixes in his 165 ball 100 while Sachin Tendulkar in his gritty hundred struck only six boundaries and laboured 51 singles.

Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar turned to the spinners as light was fading quickly and veteran Mohammad Rafique cleaned up debutant Ramesh Powar cheaply to celebrate his first wicket in the Test.

A brisk 36 off 35 balls from Mahendra Singh Dhoni kept the scoreboard ticking, but Bangladesh is right back in the match as India finished day two on 384/6 with only bowlers left to extend the first innings total.

Mashrafe Mortaza was the pick of the Bangladeshi bowlers and grabbed 3 wickets for 95 runs on an unfriendly surface while his new ball partner Shahdat Hossain bagged 2 wickets for 75 runs. Mohmmad Rafique was the only spinner to take a wicket on a pitch that was expected to suit slow bowlers.

Earlier, wet outfield took the centre stage, as grounds men worked hard to make the field ready to play for most part of the day. The sun was out but overnight rain created some patchy areas in the outfield of the newly built stadium. After three bouts of inspections, umpires finally decided to start the play at 4:30 PM local time allowing only 20 overs cricket on the second day.

According to revised playing condition, play will start 30 minutes earlier for the remaining three days to compensate the lost time.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Bangladesh face stiff challenge on test return

Bangladesh is playing their first test match after 13 months of unofficial break in Chittagong on Friday, the same venue where they played their last test against Australia in April 2006.

During this period, Bangladesh made significant progress in ODIs winning 21 out of 35 matches, which includes world cup win against India and South Africa. Bangladesh is keen to use the confidence achieved from the successes of shorter version to prosper in the more traditional form of the game.

After obtaining the elite status in 2000, Bangladesh suffered hiccups with religious regularity raising constant concern about the future of their test status. Out of the 44 test matches played, Bangladesh only managed to win against a weakened Zimbabwe and lost as many as 39 matches.

Bangladesh came agonizingly close to test glory against Pakistan in Multan, but were denied by some controversial decisions. They also managed to take mighty Australians to the wire in the last series they played; a monumental innings by Adam Gilchrist again denied a well deserved victory. Bangladesh will try to forget the major part of their test history as they suffered countless defeats and often with massive margins barring a drawn test at St. Lucia against West Indies.

The youth brigade of Bangladesh, who are the trademark of rejuvenated Bangladesh are yet to make their mark in the test arena, and selectors have kept their faith on the experienced campaigners in the up-coming two match test series against India. Only Sakib Al Hasan, who impressed with consistent all-round performance, is set to make his test debut in Chittagong.

Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar, who scored 2.838 runs in 42 tests, is cautiously optimistic about Bangladesh’s prospect in the test series.

"It's only been one-day cricket for us over the past year. We have not played Test matches in that period and it will be tough to adjust quickly. But we will do our best," said Bashar.

Bangladesh’s outgoing coach Dav Whatmore, who led the transformation of Bangladesh in ODI cricket, is confident to put up a good show despite a break of 13 months.

“We played some good cricket over the last 13 months, winning a good number ODIs helped to build confidence but players must apply themselves to adjust to test cricket,” said Whatmore.

However, he admitted Bangladesh is yet to master the art of test cricket and it will take some more hard work to succeed in the top level.

“The players are still not versatile enough because they bat well in the first innings, but not in the second which is much tougher. They still haven't acquired this skill completely, but it will happen with the help of the four-day games in domestic cricket,” Whatmore added.

Indian captain Rahul Dravid is banking on the experience of the Indian side and is optimistic to win the series convincingly.

“We have played a lot of Test cricket and there is a lot of experience. So we expect to do well against them in both matches. Hopefully we can get some good weather and some good wickets and we can do really well”, said Dravid.

India are bolstered by the return of experienced Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Venkatsai Laxman and Anil Kumble, who did not feature in the one-day series.

Bangladesh’s vice captain Mohammad Ashraful who missed the last ODI due to fever is expected to play, but concern remains over the fitness of wicketkeeper Khaled Mashud who suffered a finger injury in a domestic match, and Tushar Imran who is suffering from viral fever.

The weather is looking good and rain is not expected to play a major role in the first test match which starts tomorrow.


Bangladesh - Habibul Bashar ( Captain), Mohammad Ashraful, Javed Omar, Shahriar Nafees, Saqibul Hasan, Rajin Saleh, Tushar Imran, Khaled Mashud, Mohammed Rafique, Enamul Haque jnr., Mashrafe Mortaza, Shahadat Hossain, Syed Rasel, and Mehrab Hossain jnr.

India - Rahul Dravid (Captain), Wasim Jaffer, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, R. P. Singh, Zaheer Khan, V.R.V. Singh, Munaf Patel, Anil Kumble, Ramesh Powar and Rajesh Pawar

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Bangladesh ready to live up to expectation

Bangladesh are facing India in the first of the three match GrameenPhone ODI series at Mirpur Sher E Bangla National Stadium (SBNS) in Dhaka tomorrow (Thursday, May 10th).

This is the first time the two teams are facing each other after the historic World Cup encounter at Queens Park Oval in Trinidad, where Bangladesh toppled India by 5 wickets to send India home from the first round of the World Cup.

Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar said they are ready to live up to the high expectations of fans in the ODI series.

"We know the expectation is high after the successful World Cup campaign and we are also ready to meet that expectation," said Bangladesh skipper Habibul Bashar at a pre-match conference at the SBNS Wednesday.

 Bangladesh ready to live up to expectation

Bangladesh ready to live up to expectation © Reuters

Bangladesh is playing at home and Bashar believes this will help Bangladesh to raise their game.

"We have the belief that we can beat any team if we play to our potential. India are a good side and we can't afford to take them lightly just because we beat them in the World Cup. But playing at home is always an advantage," said Bashar.

India are also keen to avenge their World Cup defeat and want to concentrate only on playing good cricket. The Indian team is under scrutiny after their World Cup exit and their build-up to the series suffered many problems. Recent revelations about the divisions within the team by an Indian TV channel is the latest blow to the Indian morale.

However, Indian captain Rahul Dravid wants to put everything related to the World Cup behind and start afresh for the ODI series.

"We want to put the disappointment of the World Cup behind us and move on. We look forward to getting on the park to play some good cricket".

Dravid praised Bangladesh for their recent development but promised a professional display to outshine Bangladesh.

"Bangladesh are obviously a very improved team and they showed that at the World Cup. They are very competitive, but we will be equal to the challenge," said Dravid in the pre-match press conference.

Both India and Bangladesh have been hit by injury blows. India?s promising youngster Manoj Tiwary is already out of the ODI series after suffering a shoulder injury, while Bangladesh?s leading paceman Mashrafe Mortaza remains a doubt for tomorrow?s match.

Bangladesh (from): Habibul Bashar (captain), Mohammad Ashraful, Javed Omar, Tamim Iqbal, Shahriar Nafees, Aftab Ahmed, Saqibul Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mashrafe Mortaza, Syed Rasel, Abdur Razzak, Shahadat Hossain, Mohammad Rafique, Farhad Reza.

India (from): Rahul Dravid (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Mahendra Dhoni, Dinesh Karthick, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Piyush Chawla, Ramesh Powar.

Umpires : Ashoka De Silva (Sri Lanka), Nadir Shah (Bangladesh)

Monday, 7 May 2007

An exclusive interview with Khaled Mahmud, ex Bangladesh Captain and currently team operations manager, Bangladesh Cricket Academy.

Khaled Mahmud Sujon has served Bangladesh Cricket in different capacities. In his 8 years of International Cricket he represented Bangladesh in 77 ODIs and 12 test matches. He was the 3rd test captain of Bangladesh and lead Bangladesh in 9 test matches and 15 ODIs. He was better known as a “fighter” for his “never say die” attitude. Mahmud masterminded Bangladesh’s famous win over Pakistan in World Cup 1999, for which he received “Man of the Match” award. He retired from International cricket in February 2006 in the first ODI against Sri Lanka.

After his retirement from International cricket, he briefly worked as the Manager of Bangladesh National Cricket Team. Currently he is working as the Team Operations Manager of Bangladesh Cricket Academy in a bid to groom young players for future Bangladesh team. In his interview with BanglaCricket editor Khondaker Mirazur Rahman, he expressed his vision about Bangladesh Cricket Academy, Bangladesh Cricket and India’s tour of Bangladesh 2007. Khaled Mahmud gave the interview from Khulna where the Academy team was playing their first four-day match with Sri Lanka Academy.

BanglaCricket : You are working as the team operations manager of Bangladesh Cricket Academy, give us some insight about the Academy and its future plan.

Khaled Mahmud : Thanks. Bangladesh Cricket Academy is the new project of Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) with technical assistance from Cricket Australia to raise the standard of cricket in Bangladesh. It has started its operation from 2006 and from the very beginning I have associated myself with the Academy.

The Academy is trying to provide a platform for promising and talented young players to groom them properly for International level. We always had a good U-19 team but after representing the age groups, players had no platform to continue their good work to make them ready for international arena. Now in the academy we have recruited promising former U-19 players and we are grooming them as a unit with sufficient match practices and international tours. We are also working with talented but national discards to get their form back and correct their techniques.

BanglaCricket : We know Academy is in its preliminary stage, does it have any structure yet?

Khaled Mahmud : Yes, it has. As 2006 was our first year, it was a learning year for us. In the first year we tried to development the infra-structure of the academy. The Academy is based at Mirpur Sher E Bangla National Stadium, and currently we have four dedicated coaches for the Academy who are working with the players to develop their game. They are,

Alister de Winter – Head Coach

Minhajul Abedin Nannu – Batting Coach

Wahidul Gani – Spin bowling coach and

Sarwar Imarn – Pace bowling coach.

Apart from these, we usually invite specialist coaches from abroad for short term training sessions. Last year Tasmania Tigers coach Tim Coyle conducted a training camp on wicket keeping. We have plans to invite great players of International cricket to inspire the young stars and conduct short term sessions.

BanglaCricket : Bangladesh Cricket Academy toured Pakistan in 2006 and recently we have seen both Pakistan and Sri Lanka Academy here for a tri-series. What is your plan with the Academy for 2007?

Khaled Mahmud : After the end of current series against Sri Lanka, we will be arranging conditioning camps for the academy team players. We are planning to work with the techniques during the off-season and in 2007-08 we will have around 200 days of different training activities. We are also planning to hold our camps in different cities of Bangladesh to accustom the players with different conditions. We will have two or three away series during this period.

BanglaCricket : Very promising developments indeed. Do you have any plan to send Academy team to play a domestic league in Australia or South Africa?

Khaled Mahmud : We are seriously working on it. The problem is both Australia and South Africa domestic leagues co-insides with parts of our domestic league. We are planning to send the Academy team to participate one full season of cricket in either Australia or South Africa, even if they miss one domestic season in Bangladesh.

BanglaCricket : The experience to play fast and bouncy wicket will definitely help them in future.

Khaled Mahmud : Exactly, we always struggle to play in fast and bouncy conditions as we never get those types of wickets at home. We are also planning make some different wicket types in our “Home of Cricket” at Mirpur to add some variety in the experience of the Academy players.

BanglaCricket : Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has signed a deal with Cricket Australia and we are sending players to Australian Academy to develop their game. Have you selected players for this season?

Khaled Mahmud : We have selected Sohrawardy Shuvo and Raquibul Islam for Australian Academy in Brisbane. Jahurul Islam and Dollar Mahmud will go to Darwin to play cricket in the Darwin League.

BanglaCricket : You were known as a “fighter” during your international career, are you trying to instill the mentality within our Academy team players?

Khaled Mahmud : I was never ready to accept defeat until the last ball is bowled. I regularly sit with the Academy boys and share my memories with them. I am trying my best to develop “never say die” mentality within them, but as a manager it is not always easy to talk cricket with them.

BanglaCricket : What is you future plan? Do you want to work as a coach in the long run?

Khaled Mahmud : I want to associate myself with cricket for the rest of my life. I am enjoying my current responsibility to work with the future players of Bangladesh. Yes, I am thinking to take coaching as my career in the later phase of my life. I have already completed “Level – 2” coaching in 2006 and I am planning to complete “Level -3” within next 2-3 years. After achieving required qualifications, I will start my coaching career. I will always prefer any position with Cricket Academy as this is the best place to serve Bangladesh Cricket.

BanglaCricket : Bangladesh national team is dominated by young players, do you want to mention the name of any Academy player who might feature in the national team in the near future?

Khaled Mahmud : I don’t want to name anyone specific but most of our academy players have bright future ahead. Some of them have already appeared for the national team and will get their place back with time. They are ready to fill the gap as some of our senior players will retire within couple of years. Among the current bunch of players who haven’t featured for national team, Zunaed Siddique, Raquibul Islam, Nazimuddin and Saghir Hossain are playing extremely well. They are making their presence felt and they need consistent performance to get national call.

BanglaCricket : Recently Raquibul Islam is enjoying some limelight, he scored triple century in the first class cricket. Pakistan Academy coach Aaquib Javed was very impressed with him. Can you tell us something about him?

Khaled Mahmud : Raquibul is performing exceptionally well in recent times. He was not initially selected for the Academy, we included him later after seeing his domestic performance. He is a bright prospect for Bangladesh.

BanglaCricket : Many thanks Mahmud Bhai for your vision and thoughts about Bangladesh Academy. Now I will ask you few questions about up-coming India series.

Khaled Mahmud : I am also very happy to talk with you about the Academy. You can ask me questions about the India series.

BanglaCricket : What is your opinion about the prospect of Bangladesh team in the ODI series especially after World Cup win over the same opposition?

Khaled Mahmud : Bangladesh’s world cup win over India was no fluke, we performed better in every department in that day. If we can repeat our performance, I believe we have the ability to win the ODI series.

BanglaCricket : World Cup exit at the hand of Bangladesh has created storms in India, they are coming well prepared this time to escape any upset.

Khaled Mahmud : First of all, Bangladesh’s win should not be considered as upset anymore. It does not matter how much preparation you take beforehand, it’s the performance on the field that counts. India is a very good team and despite some changes, they are still a very good team. Having said that, we have the ability to beat them again if our batsmen can play sensibly. Our bowlers have always delivered but we need consistency from batsmen to win regularly over tough oppositions.

BanglaCricket : I admit Bangladesh has progressed, but still the team is very unpredictable. We won against India and South Africa but lost to Ireland. Do you have any explanation for that?

Khaled Mahmud : I will again say, our bowlers are consistent but our batsmen are not performing according to the situations. The problem is the difference between our good performances and the bad performance is very large. We have to reduce the gap to become a successful team in the world stage. If we can do that, we will win regularly and may lose some match but that’s a part of the game.

BanglaCricket : One last question to you. Have you heard about BanglaCricket or ever visited the site?

Khaled Mahmud : I have heard about the site but never visited it. From now on, I will definitely have a look at the site.

BanglaCricket : We are really grateful for your valuable time. Many thanks to you for this valuable time within your busy schedule.

Khaled Mahmud : Thank You.