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.

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