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.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

ODI series Preview, India in Bangladesh 2007: Bangladesh aim to continue domination over confused India

Two teams that met in the world cup in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on 17th March 2007, are facing each other again, for a 3 match ODI series. After the fanciful prospect of Bangladesh win has turned into reality and resulted in chaotic development in the commercial capital of cricket, the world cricket is enjoying a completely different build-up for the series. Amid uncertainty of supremacy in shorter version of the game, Bangladesh is expecting to win an ODI series against India for the first time in their cricket history.

While the win over India in world cup paved the way for more cricketing success for Bangladesh, the loss has hit India with more muddles they ever faced in their rich cricketing history. World Cup exit at the hand of Bangladesh, a team they denied to host for years for commercial reasons, has brought rings of changes in Indian cricket, and have opened the Pandora box, which they are struggling to restore in its previous state.

Coach axed, senior players rebuked, endorsements scrapped, payment denied, key players getting injured, and denial to sign contracts, these are the headlines hitting the Indian newspapers ahead of a very crucial Bangladesh tour. After the premature world cup exit, things are going from bad to worse in Indian cricket. Amid these muddles, Indian players are facing intense heat from the fans, endorsements and cricket board to perform, and restore the pride of Indian cricket.

On the contrary, after a very successful world cup mission, Bangladesh is enjoying their best moments of cricketing history. Players getting reception, world cup reward money, positive media attention, fans never ending affection and the warmth of home condition before facing India again. Bangladesh outfit is representing themselves as a happy family, who are ready to say good bye to Dav Whatmore, their father figure coach, after a successful stint of four years.

Bangladesh fans, who always express gratitude to every little success of the Tigers, watched the glorious moments of Bangladesh cricket on the television. Now, a refreshing looking young Bangladesh is aiming to topple India, yet another time, in front of their fans at home. While Bangladesh discovered confidence from the world cup, Indian confidence and pride is shattered badly and recent developments are making them increasingly confused over their future strategies. Bangladesh is keen to exploit every single opportunity to continue the domination, which they ruthlessly executed at Queens Park Oval in Trinidad.

Bangladesh kept their faith on the world cup squad, and made no changes for the India series except Rajin Saleh, who has not featured in any of the world cup matches. The spirit is high in the team, and skipper Habibul Bashar is upbeat to win the ODI series.

"There is always pressure in a home series and now the expectation is high after our victory against India. India will definitely be desperate to erase the bitter memory but I am confident of beating them again. I think it is difficult but not impossible to win the one-day series against India," said Bashar after returning from the Caribbean. The whole team echoed his voice and they are keen to retain the hard earned respect, knowing a series win over India can only augment their achievement.

Indian selectors tried hard to deliver a new look Indian team. In a bid to look for the future, the board wanted young players after the shambolic defeat at the hand of Bangladeshi youth brigade averaging 18 years. Despite the call, the scenario remained the same as selectors could only manage to offer two places for the young talents in the 14 member squad. Manoj Tiwary and Piyush Chawla earned their places in the squad, and there is a slim hope that one of them will get a nod in the playing XI. Ironically, none of the future talents managed to find their names in the test squad.

Dropping out of form Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and Ajit Agarkar from the ODI, and selecting Dinesh Mongia, Romesh Powar and Sreesanth in their place could hardly camouflage the fact that, India still believes in their old and tested cricketers, and not yet ready to groom young stars for the future.

None of the Indian batsmen except Yuvraj Singh is enjoying good form and the rest have to rely on net practices to gain their form back as there is no tour match scheduled before the ODI series. Inclusion of Sreesanth and RP Singh will boost India’s bowling attack, but lack of quality spinner in spin friendly Bangladesh condition is a significant weakness.

After starting the preparation camp in Kolkata, where conditions are somewhat similar to Bangladesh, India faced more dramatic developments, which dented their plans for Bangladesh series. Both Sachin and Dravid managed to get themselves injured, and players refused to sign the contract over pay disputes, things are not looking ideal for “Team India” who face an acid test in the up-coming ODI series. Newly appointed coach-cum-manager Ravi Shastri is trying hard to restore the order and discipline, which is the key requirement for the Indian team, who are facing constant criticism and aiming to bounce back

Bangladesh have progressed significantly as an ODI outfit over the last couple of years, and after the world cup success, they have earned valuable confidence to compete at the top level. Having said that, lack of consistency still remains as a major concern for the young Bangladesh team. Bangladesh have consistently managed to mix the best with the worst, and some superb performances are more than often marred by below par displays. They must find the right balance to continue the success, they achieved in the world cup. While bowling department has performed and elevated them to world standard, batting has let the team down in numerous occasions.

Bangladeshi top order must find their lost rhythm in favorable home condition to outshine India. The aggressive and positive intent of Tamim Iqbal, Aftab Ahmed and Mohammad Ashraful is the key to Bangladesh’s success in ODI, but failure to control the rush of blood is another key concern. Out of form Shahriar Nafees, who lost his vice-captaincy to Mohammad Ashraful and skipper Habibul Bashar, who is playing his last home series in ODI, need to sort out their batting woe to stabilize the explosive but fragile batting order.

The spin trio of Bangladesh is the heart of the bowling attack and the smothering influence of Mohammad Rafique, Abdur Razzak and Sakib Al Hasan, on opposition batsmen, has lifted Bangladesh even in most difficult conditions to bowl. They are expected to fire on all cylinders in favorable home condition and their domination can effectively tie up even the spin experienced Indian batting line up.

The new ball bowlers, Mashrafe Mortaza and Syed Rasel, provide the effective balance in the attack, and both of them are genuine wicket takers. While Mashrafe surprises opposition with his pace and swing, Rasel deceives batsmen with lack of pace and accuracy. Considering current form, Bangladesh will be heading to the ODI series, with a much better and balanced bowling attack compared to rival India.

Bangladesh have already established their supremacy in fielding, which is the third frontier of the game, over their sub-continent rivals, India and Pakistan. The aging Indian cricket team will find it difficult to deal with the youthful and agile Tigers, and this can make a real difference in a keenly contested series.

Bangladesh is trying to cope with the busy schedule of International cricket, as they got only a week rest after a grueling three months long Caribbean mission. A success over apparently struggling India, who received sufficient rest due to their first round exit from the world cup, can bring some refreshing moments for the Tigers.

With confidence running high, Bangladesh are aiming to continue their domination over their neighbor, who until recently considered them as a walkover. The youth brigade is ready to offer more sleepless night to the declining cricket super-power, in a bid to establish them as a new powerhouse of world cricket.