Shattering end of a promising campaign
Mirpur: The vomitorium was deserted, extensively littered with ‘4’ and ‘6’ placards. There were some green and red headbands lying around amid a dump of posters and banners, once written to support the Bangladesh cricket team, now just symbolising 16 crore broken hearts.
The streets were empty. It looked as if the entire nation had given up on cricket in one swish of a magic wand. Bangladesh’s World Cup campaign had come to an end on Saturday afternoon after a clinical performance by South Africa.
A lot of people had flocked to the Sher-e Bangla stadium knowing that realistically Bangladesh would not be able to beat the formidable Proteas. But then a second batting surrender in two weeks had perhaps numbed the entire nation.
There were no slogans baying for skipper Shakib’s head. Not once did the fans vent their frustration. Security personnel were present in double the numbers but then they did not have to tackle the crowd. People had silently gone back home, some in tears some with a wry smile masking humiliation.
There were no words from Shakib himself trying to justify Saturday’s 78, following a 58 in the last match at this same venue. What was there was an honest apology from the captain to the nation that had lent its unconditional support to this bunch of 15 Tigers. “I feel very sorry for our fans. They deserved much more than what we gave them,” he said amid accepting the fact that Bangladesh did not bat well in the entire World Cup, something he and coach Jamie Siddons had arrogantly denied right through the tournament.
But I think Bangladesh batting remained exactly where I had left it just over a year back. There is the same self-imposed urgency in every batsman to hit a boundary off every ball. Most do not know where their off stump is. There is a serious ineptness in tackling raw pace and there is minimum focus on grafting for runs when the wicket does not suit stroke-play.
Bragging about so and so batsman hitting some famous bowler for three fours in an over has the effect of folklore among people associated with cricket. The quiet missing of the part that the batsman in all probability was back in the pavilion on the fourth ball thereby making the bowler the winning party remains equally stark.
Clubs, not district or divisional cricket remains the nucleus. Clubs play 50-over or T20 competitions only. The four-day national league remains ignored, most of the times even by the media. Dhaka, the capital city is the sole hub of cricket. Aspiring players from districts and sub-divisions ultimately have to come to Dhaka and get into the club roster to be able to finally make a mark at the national level.
The interesting thing is this club system can work for football where the game does not change. But in cricket, four-day and the inter-club limited-over tournaments are completely different formats.
Another interesting thing observed during this World Cup was that when the two matches happened in Chittagong, the people running the show except for the security personnel were more or less the same.
Almost everyone associated with cricket operations in Dhaka travelled to Chittagong to conduct the two matches. It proved Chittagong despite having a sports council and the likes did not have the confidence of Dhaka. If Chittagong, which is an international venue for sometime now does not have the trust of Dhaka, the other centres might as well go take a walk. So players may be coming to the team from all over Bangladesh but sadly it’s only through Dhaka.
Unless Bangladesh tries to improve as a Test playing nation and concentrate more on their first-class cricket, consistency will not come. Moderately successful campaigns like in this World Cup will get overshadowed by glitches like the West Indies or the South Africa match.
Instead of hailing such a young team that came back time and again to be so close to the quarter-finals, knee-jerk reactions like changing the coach and the support staff or even the captain as a solution to a “humiliating” World Cup campaign and keeping the basic cricket set up unchanged will continue to get predominance.
The Aussies will be here early next month for a three-match ODI series. But then, lilacs will not breed out of the dead land just because it’s April.
(By Nilankur Das)