Pakistan v Bangladesh, 5th ODI, Asia Cup, Dambulla June 22, 2010

Three-and-a-half hours of torture

Bangladesh's decision not to go for the win against Pakistan exposed the biggest flaw in the one-day format and goes against the spirit of the competitive sport

In affectionate remembrance of ODI cricket, which was killed by Bangladesh at Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, 21st June, 2010. Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances, RIP.

NB The body will be cremated and the Ashes brought back to Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium for another tri-series involving India and Sri Lanka, in August 2010.

Bangladesh not only made the longest day of the year feel excruciatingly longer than it was, they also exposed the biggest weakness of 50-over cricket vis-à-vis other formats. If a side refuses to go for a win in Tests, it is automatically fighting for a draw, and thus there is still a contest. If it doesn't want to win a Twenty20, the misery ends in 80 minutes.

Fifty-over cricket, though, has no defence against a side that throws away all shame and pride and doesn't even pretend to be trying to win. What we get then is three-and-a-half hours of meander, during which selfish batsmen bolster their averages. That's what Bangladesh did when chasing 386 against Pakistan, two and six days respectively after India and Pakistan, and Sri Lanka and Pakistan played beauties to suggest there was life in the old dog yet.

Imrul Kayes and Junaid Siddique, so impressive in being the only men to support Tamim Iqbal in England, were the villains on Monday. Kayes didn't open - nay didn't try to open - his account for 23 deliveries. That took care of Tamim, who seemed to rebel against the team plan for 27 deliveries. For the other 273 legal deliveries of the chase - Kayes and Siddique, playing just for themselves, faced 224 of those - Bangladesh sabotaged international cricket.

Between the 13th and 39th over of the innings, three boundaries were hit - two of them unintentional edges and one a consequence of a dropped catch. There was no attempt made either. It wasn't that a certain net run-rate would carry them into the next round. It wasn't as if they had lost five early wickets and the tail was batting. Pakistan actually missed out on a great photo opportunity. They could have put in nine slips and still nobody would have tried to hit.

Jamie Siddons, Bangladesh's coach, actually defended them. "I'm not going to let anyone criticise the team for our approach," he said. "If Tamim had made 150, we could have chased 350-380. That was our plan. He went out there to be aggressive, if he had his day, like [Shahid] Afridi, anything's possible, but Imrul and Junaid had no chance of making 385 off their bat. No chance."

Siddons omitted to talk about international sportsmen's basic obligation towards their own fans and the paying public - of trying for a contest. Thankfully nobody bothers about the Asia Cup, and there is World Cup football on TV.

The ICC, which did not make sure this tournament was played under proper floodlights, is very fond of fining players who bring the game into disrepute. Will it take any action against Bangladesh, who brought the game to more disrepute than a batsman does when he looks disbelieving upon being given out wrongly?

It wasn't just a one-off either: chasing 359 in their last ODI against South Africa, Bangladesh shut shop as soon as Tamim got out for a 22-ball 41 in the fifth over.

Roughly speaking, to fix a match is to deliberately underperform and lose for money. This wasn't much better. For three-and-a-half hours, one team deliberately didn't make an effort to win. Just that no extra money was made. But going by Siddons' remarks, there was no underperformance here. International cricket and Bangladesh fans deserve better.

"It is ridiculous to say, 'Why didn't you go out slogging?'" Siddons said. "We couldn't have done that without getting all out for another score of 140." Maybe they need a break from international cricket, if slogging is the only way they can go for a stiff target. At any rate, if they had got bowled out for 140, at least the fans would have known their team was trying to do something, and not just batting for their averages. And it is only childish to believe that the same approach will work when Bangladesh are chasing 246 next time. As if the bowling side will then bowl part-timers and not sweat over easy singles being taken.

The ICC, which did not make sure this tournament was played under proper floodlights, is very fond of fining players who bring the game into disrepute. Will it take any action against Bangladesh, who brought the game to more disrepute than a batsman does when he looks disbelieving upon being given out wrongly?

The ODI batting of the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Geoff Boycott will obviously be brought up here, but two wrongs don't make a right. This is the year 2010, and the game is fighting for its survival. However, the ICC continues to provide flat pitches and unappetising schedules, and teams continue to hate enterprising cricket. With West Indies doing somewhat the same in a Test being played on a St Kitts highway, it is a timely reminder for the ICC to set cricket right in its backyard before trying to sell it to the USA and China.

Monday night's events were like putting to sleep a pet that has long been suffering - ODI cricket being the poor mongrel that Bangladesh didn't think worth keeping alive. For their efforts, Kayes and Siddique were rewarded with bloated ODI averages and also cash awards called "Stylish Player of the Day" and "Jodi [partnership] of the Day".

The Bangladesh fans, though, were not happy, and made their displeasure known on internet forums, calling for better doctors, who will not keep putting down pets. The fans fear that this selfish attitude could kill not just ODIs but Bangladesh cricket too.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments