January 29, 2010

The future looks rosy for Bangladesh

They have a good allrounder who could be their permanent captain and they have talent sprinkled through the team but need a solid No. 3, a fit Mortaza and better out-cricket

Bangladesh may have lost the series but there are unmistakable signs of green shoots there. Hopefully, unlike the economists, we won't have to keep revising our estimates, for Bangladesh have hinted at progress before and fallen well short. But there are leading indicators and they are looking better than they have for a while. They now need three things to happen: Mashrafe Mortaza to return, a solid batsman at No. 3 and their sports minister to stay away from cricketing judgement.

At last they have an allrounder. Shakib Al Hasan is the best spinner in Bangladesh and easily fits into the top six. And, in a welcome departure from deep-rooted trends, he bowls with a beautifully straight arm. I suspect too that in him they have found the right captain. There is an assurance about the way he carries himself and it doesn't seem to affect his performance. He needs time though and, as we have seen on either side of India, it is a luxury captains are denied.

There are a couple of decent seamers in Shahadat Hossain and Rubel Hossain and a third, ideally Mortaza, would be very handy. And they have an opener who likes to get on with it. There will be days when Tamim Iqbal will invite criticism for impetuosity but that comes with his style. Like Shakib, though, he needs time for he looks like he will become a special player for them. His 151 reminded me of one other; Mohammad Ashraful's incandescent 158 not out in Chittagong a few years ago. Since then Ashraful has stayed where he was with only an occasional allowance to his special ability. Luckily for Tamim, he is coming through at a time when Bangladesh are seeing a little more success and hopefully that will make him, and others around him, a little more positive.

In time to come Mahmudullah will move up the order. His offbreaks are unlikely to be his best friends for long and, like Sri Lanka's Thilan Samaraweera, he might become a batting allrounder and eventually, a batsman. Indeed that is where he might serve Bangladesh better because they need someone a little more reliable in the top four.

Subcontinental weakness
For all these green shoots, though, Bangladesh lost rather easily. And I'm sure their coach will point out the real reasons. They, like almost everyone in our part of the world, don't seem too keen to do the simple things well. Better catching in the first Test might have embarrassed India a little more and a no-ball less might have made the second Test a little more interesting. But this problem is not theirs alone. Pakistan's fielding too has been woeful and while India catch well at most times, their out-cricket still gives you the impression it is a generation behind time.

It is an area the Asian countries have rarely been inclined to excel at. It could be that we are not natural athletes but increasingly I think it is because our young men play no sport other than cricket. Far too early in life (I met someone recently who asked what his six-year old should do to become a top cricketer!), they commit to cricket and, that inevitably means, to batting and bowling. And so our fast bowlers are not natural sprinters, our fielders don't have great throwing arms and nobody takes enough catches in practice. Inevitably, then, the Asian teams have to play 10% better to win a match.

India's batting future
India seem to have a couple of slots opening up in the middle order and that may not be such a bad thing. The first slot is the easiest to fill. If Rahul Dravid is not ready, Murali Vijay can bat at No. 3 but it is at Nos. 5 and 6 that an interesting debate seems forthcoming. There is little doubt that the first slot should go to S Badrinath. I know there is much to be said in favour of giving in-form batsmen a go but Badrinath has done everything in Indian cricket except play for India. If the selectors want to look elsewhere they need look no further than Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara.

The greater fear though is with the bowling. Ishant Sharma took wickets but looked well short of top form in Bangladesh, Sreesanth is injured, RP Singh hasn't demanded the world look at him, neither has Irfan Pathan with the ball and Munaf Patel, I'm told, is around somewhere. It leads to a rather scary conclusion. If Zaheer Khan breaks down, India might just be the side to queue up to bat against.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Aditya on January 31, 2010, 21:55 GMT

    @Rahul_78: I totally agree with you man. Harbhajan should be dropped, and made to play Ranji until he gets his form back. They should pick another offspinner --- Ojha is a good bowler but you can't have him and Mishra in the same team...for the sake of variety. I know there are a couple of good offspinners in domestic cricket, we should give another youngster a chance. To be honest, our bowling attack at the moment looks out of form and weak. Only Zaheer and Ojha are doing well. Ishant in my view is still struggling, Sreesanth was never really consistent. I believe that Ashish Nehra should be a given a chance to play Test cricket again. He is a much improved bowler and he can do well in the long form if his fitness holds (which is of course a big if). Also we should play less one-day cricket, because ODIs in the subcontinent generally destroy the confidence of our bowlers -- I mean we don't have Anil Kumble anymore who was amazing at home.

  • John on January 31, 2010, 10:38 GMT

    This is a very rosy view of Bangladesh cricket; their problem is not just the lack of victories. It is the fact that they always lose (50 out of 53 excluding Zim and WI 4th XI). They had a chance to draw the first test against India, but concentrated playing shots - what use is a scoring rate of 4 per over when you are trying to save the match? Bangladesh have a lot of talented players but they owe it to world cricket to start treating test cricket with the respect it deserves.

  • Rahul on January 31, 2010, 9:43 GMT

    Harsha, Being one of the best commentator, writer with unbiased views in indian cricket I need to hear your openion on harbhajan singh. It is time for people to acknowledge and understand it is a scenario where 'Empror has no clothes'. He seems to be untouchable. Agreed the cupboards are bare in spinn dept but what are the stats for harbhajan a no 1 spinner from no 1 rated test country? Everytime he comes in bowles loads of over for trickle of wickets and blame is put on the flat test pitches. "Pitch didnt had anything to offer hence our fast bowlers needed to step in" was dhonis comments in 2nd test against Banglas. With all due respect to bangla boys if your no spiner is relying on wicket to take turn on 4th day to take wickets then does he diserve to be in the side? Zaheer is undoubtedly no 1 bowler for india and if he is not there then can we rely on harbhajan to rescue india like zaheer did in bangladesh? And selectors are not even picking another offspiner in the squad of 14.

  • Dave on January 31, 2010, 5:35 GMT

    I think indians are number#1 cricket fans and these cricket fanatics deserve their team to be like mighty aussies or win the worldcup again. For that to happen, they need to improve their balling depertment.They sometimes produce 1 or 2 superb ballers like zaheer but they need more and be consistent . Once they become like their pakistani brethren who always produce quality ballers , india would be much stronger team. As for bengal, they are certainly improving in good pace and they will definitely become a proper test playing nation in near future. For now Bangladesh should look for potential (future) , not present (form/experience) . Aftab ahmed should be given chance, Riyad should be promoted and NAEEM Islam should be trained in batting. This Naeem Islam got mega-talent in batting, someone should tell this ordinary baller to forget balling and if he is trained in batting he would be a dangerous batsman for bangladesh in futurre. They also need stable openers, tamim is not good.

  • Kshitij on January 31, 2010, 2:03 GMT

    @chand. While I do agree that India could have tested some of the younger players in this series but it wouldn't have been a good idea to rest Sachin and Dravid. Both of them are nearing the end of their career and both of them want to finish with a good overall career record. With Ponting closely chasing Sachin in terms of the number of centuries, this series certianly helped him increase that gap. At the same time, Dravid is looking to surpass Lara in terms of total number of career runs scored and hopefully finish above Ponting. So there is quite an individual race going on at present and games against Bangladesh is easy meat...

  • Flashy on January 30, 2010, 18:39 GMT

    I thought Bangladesh are right there, need some adjustments mentally. They need to learn to play smart cricket. They had India down in 1st test first innings and also in 2nd test. Concentration is the key both during batting and fielding. It was batting and fielding which let them down. Individually Ashraful needs to learn quickly or take a break. He needs to take some tips from Gautham Gambhir. He has some exceptional shots but at the same time he needs to learn to respect bowlers, have patience and concentrate. Shakib is a good bowler, Rahim has the technique to stay for long and play good shots too. He needs to be number 3/4. If Junaid is playing then Rahim can play 4. Mahmudullah needs promotion too. He batted exceptionally well in 2 innings this series. Bangladesh needs to find a better partner for Tamim. Good Luck to Bangladesh!!

    For India, watch out for bouncers. Yuvraj learn to play moving ball and good spin. Improve your technique there. Bowlers, only good in patches.

  • Vipul on January 30, 2010, 13:46 GMT

    Great article Harsha... But I wonder how long will it take for the green shoots to blossom into a great tree. I think Tamim Iqbal was just plain lucky that day to get to the score he got in the second innings. Others were not so lucky and perished. I also fail to understand what's the need for Bangla fans to sound so menacing everytime somebody speaks of their uncertain future. They keep harping about India's ouster from WC'07 every time their weaknesses are pointed out by any Indian fan. Their horrible sentence construction just adds to the readers' irritation while reading the comments to your article.

  • Terry on January 30, 2010, 9:20 GMT

    ICC needs to allow the best teams to compete at an elite level. 4 year test world cup consisting of Y1 4 groups of 5, Yrs2-3 Super Eights, Yr 4 Semi & Final. This would allow around 40 tests over 4 years with only 6 tests against minnows. All 20 teams have 12 month chance of getting into top 8 by winning (rain result is win to higher rank), with option of 2nd tier for years 2-4 (World Plate).

  • Dummy4 on January 30, 2010, 7:21 GMT

    Bangladesh has a great potentiality and they have the ability to defeat any team. Ashraful is very good on his bating style. i think he should be little bit passionate with his performance.Tamim, sakib, musfiq and riad also a better weapon for Bangladesh. Mashrafe the captain is world class bowler. with all this i m hopeful about Banladesh. I love Bangladesh and Bangladesh Cricket Team.

  • Dummy4 on January 30, 2010, 7:04 GMT

    I agree to the comments of Mr. H.Bhogle.Apart ,we need a good opener who can assist Tamim.Most significantly, we need to change our player's mind set up. They play episodically well but cricket is a game where you need all side well performance till the end.Our player need to have more patience and calmness. they become very excited and that is why we see game like last test match with India where 7 wickets gone for 22 .this is a shame and pity to spoil Tamim's great build up.I do not know what the players are thinking now after this. they should have a target while playing and someone should always guide them not to play wrong shots when under pressure to prevent wicket falling like bricks fall.

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