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Bangladesh are more cohesive than they were two years ago, and that's because of Mushfiqur Rahim's leadership and the rise in status of players like Sohag Gazi
October 13, 2013
If David Boon hadn't dived two feet to his right at short leg, there wouldn't have been an MCG hat-trick for Shane Warne. At Eden Gardens in 2001, it was Sadagoppan Ramesh's swift right hand that gave Harbhajan Singh his famous hat-trick. And today, Sohag Gazi needed Shakib Al Hasan to dive from leg slip and catch the ball as it was about to drop in front of first slip, after the edge from Doug Bracewell had ricocheted off the wicketkeeper Mushiqur Rahim's pads.
The catch that gave Gazi his hat-trick was stunning, because of the distance Shakib had to cover and his courage at not giving a hoot about the fielder who was about to swoop in from first slip.
Shakib's feat said a lot about this Bangladesh team. Gazi had talked about how senior players like Shakib and Abdur Razzak had talked to him about his bowling, when the Bangladesh board had made it clear that the spin consultant Saqlain Mushtaq would not be available before 2014. Gazi had never had a bowling mentor before, and he needed Saqlain at a time when his form had taken a dip.
The development of a more congenial environment in the team has not been talked about outwardly, but there have been moments in the field that indicate Bangladesh are a cohesive unit, and not a divisive one.
Bangladesh had gone through a hard time when there appeared to be a gap between Shakib and Tamim, and the rest of the team. It had to do with the high profiles of those two celebrity players, but the number of performers has increased over the last couple of years. Nasir Hossain, Mominul Haque, Robiul Islam and Gazi have not reached the status of Tamim or Shakib, but they are getting there. Within the team environment, it has become easier to handle stars and treat everyone more equally than before.
The captain Mushfiqur Rahim must take most of the credit, but he too has had to overcome difficulty. He took over two years ago, at a time when Bangladesh cricket was going through a tumultuous phase, having lost to Zimbabwe and with Shakib and Tamim being abruptly removed from leadership. Mushfiqur has handled several issues adroitly, such as the players regrouping after a controversial first BPL. He was in the most trouble for speaking out about the unpaid fees.
Mushfiqur picked that moment to inspire his side, and they won ODIs against India and Sri Lanka, and were eventual Asia Cup runners-up after a heart-breaking loss in the final. Mushfiqur also had to tackle long breaks between seasons, because Bangladesh do not get a lot of Test cricket.
After this year's BPL, Mushfiqur saw several players turning up injured for their preparatory camp ahead of the Sri Lanka tour, creating a chaotic situation with long queues outside the physio's room. He managed to shift the focus to Test cricket again, overcoming worries about injuries and more unpaid BPL wages.
Mushfiqur also had to battle his own demons. After losing the ODI series to Zimbabwe in May, he suddenly resigned. There were rumours flying about but it was clearly an emotional decision. He was quickly reappointed, but there was going to be a lot of pressure on him from the BCB directors had Bangladesh not done well in this game. It is necessary to understand the background of this team's development, when putting Gazi's hat-trick into context.
Gazi had done extremely well in first-class cricket but since he played for Barisal Division, one of the worst teams, he had gone unnoticed. Under Mushfiqur and former chief selector Akram Khan, however, the focus has been on good performers, regardless of their pedigree. Gazi is a product of all the troubles Mushfiqur had to solve. He is here because Bangladesh cricket is slowly moving away from the tradition of promoting talented cricketers from age-group competitions.
Ever since his Test debut, Gazi has made headlines. Mushfiqur asked him to open the attack against Chris Galye in the Dhaka Test last year. It made Gazi the first offspinner in Test history to bowl the first over of a match on debut, and the first debutant spinner to do so in 103 years. Within a few overs, he dismissed Chris Gayle, who had earlier smacked him for a six off his first ball. Gazi took nine wickets in the match, and on his ODI debut, he was the Man of the Match for his four-wicket haul, which won Bangladesh the game in Khulna.
Gazi's fortune dipped in Sri Lanka where, on his first tour, he had to be the lead bowler in the absence of Shakib. The Zimbabwe tour wasn't great either, as he struggled in different conditions. There was a poor tour of England two months ago, as well as unremarkable performance in the Dhaka Premier League too.
However, as Gazi felt the arm ball slide out of his fingers and then saw it dip and nick Doug Bracewell's edge, clip Mushfiqur Rahim's right pad and fall into Shakib's diving fingers, the hat-trick was completed and the place in history secured. But he had done the same thing nearly a year ago.
Only a small group of most ardent followers in Bangladesh and highly-aware cricket statisticians around the world know that Gazi has scored a hundred, taken a hat-trick and a five-wicket haul in a first-class match, for Barisal against Khulna in the National Cricket League.
He took the wickets of Taposh Ghosh, Rubel Hossain and Al-Amin Hossain, which gave him seven wickets in the innings and nine in the match. Earlier in the game, Gazi had struck 119 off 93 balls, after reaching the century off 76. It was the second fastest first-class century in Bangladesh, just behind a 67-ball century in October 2011 - his own feat.
Gazi's set and broken records in the month of October, in 2011, 2012 and 2013. What will October 2014 bring, when Zimbabwe tour Bangladesh?
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Mohammad Isam
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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