Sports is perhaps the single-most powerful entity to unite a Nation. Just look at the South African ‘95 Rugby team that helped greatly unite an Apartheid-ridden country, at least for that time. The same can be said about the recently concluded series between the Tigers and New Zealand, where – even amid the political turmoil – people were in unison about their support and love for the home team. So seeing the Prime Minister present during the awards giving ceremony at the end of the series was no surprise.
There are a few extremely pleasing factors about the recent whitewash or as most have been ramming home, “Banglawash”; none have been more pleasing than actually having won so comprehensively, carrying the favourite tag. It’s easy to forget that not very long ago we had the favourite tag against the West Indies in the World Cup and we failed miserably. The very next match, we stunned England when most had written us off. In short: we are not used to being favourites and that tag could have been a new thing for Mushfiqur and co. but they handled the situation, this time, with aplomb.
That brings to point our Captain’s Man-of-the-Series worthy performance. Leadership is half — making the correct tactical decisions e.g. bowling and fielding changes, while the other half is creating a positive team spirit and belief. Mushfiqur has done the latter better than most of his predecessors. That is in by no means counting out his performance with the bat.
Our ability to win the third and final ODI with both Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal – two cornerstones of the team – absent and chasing a 300-plus total was perhaps another very surprising and heart-warming aspect. We managed to find more than adequate replacements for the loss of Tamim in the last ODI in place of Shamsur Islam who struck a powerful 96 (unlucky to miss out on that century really)! The find of the series has to be Mominul Islam with his back-to-back centuries in the Tests. But players like Naeem Islam and Rubel Hossain also had excellent outings re-establishments into the national setup while Sohag Gazi and Nasir Hossain built on their already excellent starts to their international careers.
Throughout a myriad of controversies surrounding the team – including the Mohammad Ashraful revelation – and the BCB, in the months leading up to the series, along with poor performances in the UK for the under-19 and Bangladesh A team (of which Sohag Gazi and Mominul Haque were both a part of), the team actually made sure that they prepared properly with a training camp that began in June and ended early September. This, coupled with an effective coaching from Shane Jurgensen has brought about dividends.
Let’s have a look at some numbers from the series. Now, Mushfiq himself had mentioned that he was surprised to get the Man of the Series award in the ODIs, as he was only the third highest scorer with 123 runs compared to highest scorer Naeem Islam’s 163. However, Rahim’s far superior strike rate of 94.61 were pivotal to the acceleration Bangladesh required for victory, and coupled with his fantastic display as captain on the pitch, there really wouldn’t be too many complaints about the selection. Rubel Hossain picking up a career best 6/26 (which included a hat trick) was a pleasant surprise; his selection has often been questioned by a vast majority of fans, and it’s a confidence booster for the entire squad to see him step up and deliver. Shohag Gazi proved dependable yet again, picking up important wickets at key stages and chipping in with the bat lower down the order with some handy runs.
The numbers in the Test series really belong to one man only; with 376 runs in 4 innings at a staggering average of 188 and an extremely impressive strike rate of 63, Mominul Islam has instilled hope into the hearts of the entire nation. It may be early days, but Bangladesh may have finally unearthed a genuine batsman of the longer format, but the youngster needs to be tested in more alien conditions to really silence his critics and prove that he is just as special as the home crowd believe him to be. It’s important to mention Gazi yet again, for in addition to being the highest wicket taker in the series with 8, he contributed with yet another vital century which resulted in refraining the Kiwis from a possible victory.
Now, with the controversies more-or-less taking a back seat to the on-field results, it’s time to look forward to the next tour, which happens to be when Bangladesh host Sri Lanka in February. We play West Indies away and then host Zimbabwe. Three tours, and two Tests each makes it six test matches played over the full calendar year of 2014. Our captain Mushfiqur Rahim stressed the importance of playing more matches, but with only 6 test matches being played, the team is really given no time to try and work on improvements. Only with more playing time out there do teams and players truly develop. In comparison, the Pakistan team which does not even have permission to play in their own country have a 3 Test match series against Sri Lanka this year along with three further series fixtures against Australia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. Taking into account their recently concluded series against South Africa, from October until the end of next year, Pakistan will have played 13 test matches, a figure double that of Bangladesh. We’re quick to be vocal regarding the performances of our Test side, but the ICC really has not aided us in any way to address this issue. We play a lot more ODIs, including two tri series with Pakistan and Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka along with playing 3 ODIs against India. However, the numbers are still short of the big teams and the question remains on why Bangladesh is continuously given such less time; a nation which literally worships cricket must be given more tours, more opportunity to get out for more exposure. It’s the best way this young team shall continue to develop.
Ahm Mustafizur Rahman is a freelance writer. Shahnoor Rabbani is a freelance writer and a sports analyst at Radio Shadhin.