Sunday, August 14, 2011

On our test cricketers’ manners and playing abilities

The Independent, August 13, 2011
As I See It Column
M. Serajul Islam

I was bewildered when I read an interview of Tamim Iqbal on internet after the end of the 4th days play with Bangladesh needing 263 to in with 7 wickets left in the one off Test match in Zimbabwe. The interview was punched with arrogance and bad manners. His confidence that his team would win the 375 runs target was highly misplaced and spoken out of ignorance.

His attitude towards some of the Zimbabwean cricketers was insulting and subjective. I am not sure on what Tamim based his haughty and arrogant comments. True he has played some outstanding test innings and has won the Wisden’s Test Player of the Year award. Nevertheless, he has surely not yet attained the position to speak disparagingly of his opponents. He needs to be told that when one attains class, one also learns to respect.

His insulting comment on the Zimbabwean bowler Vitori whom he called “ordinary” was irresponsible to say the least. Vitori was a key bowler who was responsible for Bangladesh’s poor show in the first innings. Other than this unbelievable comment, Vitori who was a debutant in the Test won the accolade of everybody. As a new comer to test and first class cricket, he showed class that Bangladesh’s vastly experienced bowlers could not.

Zimbabwe outclassed Bangladesh in all departments of the game. The margin of defeat was a big one and given the fact that Zimbabwe declared its second innings with only 5 wickets down, a damning one too. It should shame the Bangladesh players who should apologize for letting the country down. They have demonstrated their lack of ability for playing the larger version of the game. The team’s management appears to have no control over the team and the players play and talk as they want!

It is not first time that Tamim has shown arrogance in the media. It is again not Tamim alone who has done so. Captain Saquib was also recently in the news for his comments on former test players and his views of selection of the Bangladesh test team. Ability backed on results and performance with arrogance makes some sense. In case of Bangladesh cricketers, it is poor ability and disgraceful results that is mixed with their arrogance. Hence, in such arrogance they just not humiliate themselves but as they wear the Bangladesh cap, the country as well. The cricketers are on the Board’s payroll and therefore there subject to a code of conduct. Surely this is not being applied. It is time for the Board to wake up.

The Zimbabweans left no one watching any doubt that it was a test match they were playing. Tamim, Shahriar and surprisingly Kayes played the Test like a one day match. In fact, Tamim and Shahriar played it in the T20 mode! When the Zimbabweans dangled the carrot of a highly unlikely victory target of 375 in 4 sessions, the gullible team fell for it like they have been doing this all the time unaware that it was a target that was chased for a won only on 5 previous occasions in test history! The pitch was docile and the Zimbabwean attack by no means unplayable. Common sense should have dictated the Bangladesh team to play for a draw that was achievable. Yet Bangladesh opted for chasing victory and lasted a little over 2 sessions!

In the first innings, Shahriar was guilty of playing the most irresponsible innings one can imagine. It looked like he had a flight to catch! True he scored 50 but he looked like getting out with every shot. When a one down player was playing like that, why did the team management not send him a word of caution? While the batsmen scored some runs, the bowlers were innocuous. In fact Tamim should have had a few caustic remarks for his team’s bowlers instead of offending his opponent’s bowlers who not only bowled better but also proved they were better by winning handsomely.

It was however good to see Ashraful play with some common sense, at last. One hopes that after spending time in the wilderness, he has learnt a lesson or two; that genius is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration. In fact, this perspiration thing should be ingrained in the brains of all our batsmen from getting swollen headed after playing an innings or two of merit.

However what is urgently necessary for our Test cricket team is to adopt heroes and draw inspiration from them. Two names come instantly in mind. The first is Sachin Tendulkar. He should be adopted as a hero to learn the meaning of humility. With 51 test centuries and nearly 15,000 test runs, he behaves like one who has still achieved nothing! Imagine Tamim in Tendulkar’s shoes! Bangladesh cricketers should follow Tendulkar to understand how someone with such great achievements can stay so humble. His humility has given his greatness the extra aura.

The second cricketer that Bangladesh cricketers, particularly our batsmen should adopt as a hero is Pakistan’s former test opening batsman Hanif Mohammed. They need him to appreciate the value of defense and crease occupation to learn to draw by avoiding defeat. Bangladesh test cricketers have convinced themselves that test cricket is one day cricket where a draw is not an option! This explains why out of 64 tests they played; they lost 56, won 3 and drew the rest! If they had Hanif as a hero, they could have drawn many more tests and saved themselves from humiliation. Playing attacking shots before learning how to defend is like attempting to run without learning how to walk properly.

Test cricket’s regulators, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has decided to give the Bangladesh test team respite by heavily cutting on their test schedules. This has been done no doubt because of their poor performance in Test cricket. The Bangladesh Cricket Board should now go back to the drawing board and evaluate why the team has achieved such a humiliating Test record. Tamim’s interview could help them in finding answers. He said “if we do not do anything silly, Bangladesh will win”. Bangladesh did not win the Harare test because the players played downright silly cricket. In fact, they have played silly cricket all along which is why they have piled a world record of losing test matches.

The new coach Stuart Law could do himself and Bangladesh cricket a world of good if he could put some common sense into the cricketers. For a starter, he could set for them two mutually exclusive modes, the Test mode and the One Day mode and punish those who mix the modes. There are of course a host of other issues that not he but the Board should do, like prepare the cricketers for Test cricket with good domestic programmes which is just not there now. It is sheer stupidity to pay test cricket without preparation.

The writer is a retired career diplomat and former Ambassador to Japan.

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