Shakib Al Hasan… can walk into most teams in the world © Getty Images
By Karthik Parimal
The group featuring Bangladesh, New Zealand and Pakistan was considered to be a “Group of death”, mainly because the Bangladeshis had promised a lot since the past few months and had distanced themselves from the tag of minnows. But inconsistency has been their ally for quite some time now. Soon after their heroics in the Asia Cup ended, they receded to their insipid ways during the tour of Europe against relatively weaker teams like Ireland, Netherlands and Scotland.
You’d expect Bangladesh to be a force to reckon with by now, at least in the subcontinent, considering how often they’ve played top teams over the last decade. However, their performance – or the lack of it – against New Zealand in the T20 World Cup confirmed the fact that this side is yet to conquer its inner demons.
Bangladesh has found itself on the brink of exit, yet again. This was the same side that whitewashed New Zealand a few months ago during a One-Day International (ODI) series at home and almost managed to lift the Asia Cup for the first time in its history. Yet, it didn’t take long before they appallingly went down to sides like Netherlands and Scotland – who hardly play considerable amount of international cricket -thereafter.It’s evident that Bangladesh has been suffering with a long-term problem of inconsistency, and it’s surprising that absolutely nothing has been done to remedy the situation yet.
Lack of fearless attitude
On the other hand, a side like Afghanistan continues to make steady progress despite several hindrances. They had to fight against all odds just to be out there in the middle. Yet, they’ve always gone from strength to strength. Someone watching the game for the first time could’ve hardly differentiated the difference in experience between India and Afghanistan the other day. The amateurs showed the significance of playing fearlessly, and how that sort of an attitude could actually go a long way in winning hearts.
Bangladesh showcased such traits when they beat Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup, Australia in 2005 at Cardiff, India during the 2007 World Cup and, more recently, in the Asia Cup. But it’s so sporadic that one good victory is soon marred by a string of defeats. The players have nobody to blame but themselves. It’s their lack of application that has led to their downfall more than anything else. They’ve got the required support, both from the crowd and the International Cricket Council (ICC) – who’ve not reconsidered their Test status despite consistent non-performance, and yet they’ve often failed to repay that faith.
Dependence on a particular player
Bangladesh has managed to produce some world class players, but rarely has it put forth a successful unit. Shakib Al Hasan is a performer who could feature as a first-choice all-rounder in most teams. One can imagine how his contributions would have multiplied for Bangladesh if only he had the luxury of playing with a little more freedom. Sadly, that’s not to be, thanks to the mountain of expectations placed on him. Bangladesh has produced decent openers, but not middle-order specialists or spinners who couldpossibly cement their place alongside Shakib, such that they could take a little pressure off the southpaw. One player can hardly make much of a difference to the team’s fortunes when the rest ten fail to deliver. Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar of the late ’90s will testify to that.
Long road ahead
With yet another exit from the initial stages of a main event looking inevitable, Bangladesh must now take a good hard look at themselves. It’s been 15 years since they were granted a regular member status with the ICC, and 15 years is a long enough time to deliver results, especially with the amount of cricket being played these days. Their record, in all formats, is a contradiction to the general consensus that the more the smaller teams play, the better they get.
It’s time they broke their old routine of cocooning after one good performance. Momentum plays a crucial role regardless of the sport, and Bangladesh must look to capitalise on it by taking it forward with every match they play. There is no dearth of resources, but it’s evident that they are not being marshalled appropriately.
Let us hope that if Bangladesh manages to trump a strong side in the 2014 T20 World Cup, scheduled to be held in its own backyard, it is not still considered as an upset.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)