Champions Trophy / News

Bangladesh v Zimbabwe, Jaipur

Players have to perform against bigger teams - Whatmore

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan in Jaipur

October 13, 2006

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' I just wanted to make sure I batted for as long as possible' - Shahriar Nafees © AFP
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On a day when Bangladesh toasted their first Nobel Prize winner, the cricket team provided them with more good news, signing out of the Champions Trophy with a convincing win. Looked at in a certain manner, there is more than coincidence here. Muhammad Yunus, an economist, set up Grameen Bank and transformed his nation's countryside. As for the Bangladesh side they are sponsored by Grameen Phone, a sister concern to the Grameen Bank. Talk of how better infrastructure and corporate sponsorship impacts performance.

Shahriar Nafees, the architect of the win, batted like one inspired. He's part of the upbeat and more confident generation who face teams head on. Just 28 one-dayers old and he's already crossed fifty on five occasions and made two hundreds, unlike any other Bangladeshi. Added to that is a Test hundred against the mighty Australians.

Dav Whatmore had no doubt that the current crop came with a more aggressive outlook, more fearless attitude. "It's not a criticism of the older guys," he said at the end of the day, "they've done a lot for Bangladesh cricket. But the younger guys seem to play with a lot less pressure. They play for the day; they have some skill and a strong desire. They now have to show they can do it against the bigger teams."

Shahriar doesn't seem to come to the crease with any sort of baggage. Against West Indies, he slapped the first ball for four, square-cutting it with some venom. Such an approach has caused his downfall at times but if you're instincts are to whack, you might as well go for it. Today he nearly fell before scoring, surviving a dropped chance at cover after scooping at a wide one, but cashed in by gritting it out. For the next hour, it appeared as if he was atoning for that early indiscretion - grafting to his fifty off 92 balls.

"It wasn't an easy wicket to bat on," Shahriar said, "and I just wanted to make sure I batted for as long as possible. It would not have been easy for a new batsman to get set and score immediately." Soon he began to express himself. The next 73 came off 69, with Prosper Utseya being tonked along the way. There weren't any half measures - down the track, dash; back-foot, punch; inside out, whack; through the line, pelt. He cramped up towards the end but hobbled on, smashed a few more fours and ended not out.

A student of Business Management, Shahriar's development as a cricketer is a tribute to the junior system in Bangladesh. He's someone who was spotted early - in fact, he and Ashraful attended the same talent-spotting camp - and was nursed into international cricket. "He's enjoyed the opportunity to tour other countries before he got the chance with the national team," Whatmore added, "and has received valuable instructions at the academy and A levels."

Shahriar and gang are just the early products of Bangladesh's professional system. It may not be too long before a tap is opened and if a bit of steel is added to the abundance of talent, Bangladesh may well be on the right track.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo

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