Shakib hails 'real progress'
To a neutral, the one-sided contest in tonight's match may have been really boring. A tournament already devoid of any context and struggling for quality cricket seemed to have sunk to a new low tonight in many ways. However, it would be a myopic view of Bangladesh cricket, which has shown some definite signs of progress.
In ascending order, the hosts scored 296 against India yesterday, their highest score against a Test-playing country. They ended on 260 in the tri-series opener against Sri Lanka, and tonight, they were just one short of 250.
Interestingly enough, on all three occasions it felt that they could easily have scored 30 runs more. Impressively, and this perhaps has been the stand-out factor, they didn't play their usual brand of flashy cricket. Captain Shakib Al Hasan agreed, "That has been the biggest gain. Not playing any silly shots but by being sensible, we are still scoring these many runs - that has been the best part of this tournament for us. We are learning to play calmly and we are happy that we have been able to score more or near about 250 in three consecutive games."
He pointed out something interesting the other night though, after the loss to India. He said he chose to bat first not because he thought the dew wouldn't play a part later, but it was the fear of chasing 350 that India were capable of posting. They seem to be the words of a man lacking in confidence, but Shakib believes it's self awareness from a man who knows the limitations of the team and someone who is practical.
One journalist though, couldn't hold himself back. "Why do you say that? If you can score 297, can't you chase 320 or 350?" Shakib's polite response was, "All I'm saying is, we are still not quite confident of chasing those type of scores. Not yet."
One can understand where Shakib is coming from. It's a thought from someone who reckons he should learn to walk, before thinking about running. Some might argue that it limits oneself and that one must learn to dream big. Shakib said he wanted to master the basics and get the process right, so that the results follow. He seems to be a man wary of the past when Bangladesh would dazzle briefly, but eventually fall well short of achieving anything consistently.
"We have three 250 runs score consistently now, and I see it as real progress," he said. We have seen the old flashy Bangladesh implode spectacularly so often that we must give this new calmer approach some time to succeed.
Bangladesh might not have a captain who is tactically brilliant. They don't have potent seamers and possess a few batsmen who seem to prefer to live on the edge. But in Shakib, they seem to have a very sensible captain. He answers tricky and loaded questions with a disarming honesty, hasn't forgotten to smile, and has the confidence of his team-mates as well.
He certainly seems to have the backing of the selectors. Akram Khan, one of the national selectors, hailed him as a passionate cricketer who is out to do full justice to his talent and as someone who leads by example. Coach Jamie Siddons thinks Bangladesh would be really competitive in two years' time and Shakib concurs with the thought. It's up to their passionate, at times perhaps too emotional, fans to take a call on where they stand. Bangladesh cricket doesn't seem to be improving at the pace they, or the critics, want it to. But, it should have been obvious from the beginning that, it was never going to be a easy ride.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo