The topsy-turvy roller-coaster ride of Bangladesh cricket
Bnagladesh cricket has been suffering; now Rahim needs to turn it into a unit that inspires the fans.
A year ago, Bangladesh cricket was settling down after a win against England and a loss to Ireland in the space of five days.
They had barely sat down after the rollercoaster ride when crushing series wins over New Zealand and Zimbabwe followed. Then a World Cup came along, throwing up some more shockers: be it the stinkers against West Indies and South Africa or the unforgettable win over England.
Just months later, Bangladesh cricket is staring down the barrel again, losing the Test and One-Day International (ODI) series against Zimbabwe.
As in September 2010, on the eve of the historic New Zealand series, nerves reverberate the air around the Shere Bangla Stadium in Dhaka. There have, however, been important personnel changes with Stuart Law appointed coach a week before the Zimbabwe tour and now a new captain Mushfiqur Rahim at the helm.
The 23-year-old wicketkeeper will lead Bangladesh after the team’s best player, and his close friend from school, was sacked unceremoniously last month. Appointed in the middle of a 2009 Test match after Mashrafe Mortaza hurt his knee, Shakibal Hasan carried the Tigers for two exhilarating years where he was the world’s best all-rounder. His greatest quality was his consistency, with bat and ball.
But that consistency in the field wasn’t mirrored in his performance off it. From late 2009 to when he lost the captain’s arm-band, he had squabbles with the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president, a senior player, selectors and the media. The board became reluctant to act against their poster boy for any of those squabbles. So when the Tigers lost to Zimbabwe, nobody expected them to act this swiftly.
On September 5 after a routine board meeting, the BCB sacked Shakib and his deputy Tamim Iqbal.
However, till now, the BCB has failed to address equally important issues such as poor first-class cricket structure, decentralisation of the game and poor pitches. Bangladesh cricket is not exactly in a rut. In fact, it is far from it. Financially, it is easily the most viable sport in the country and the fact that it is no longer just the most popular game, but also the most fervently followed pastime was on show during the World Cup.
The new captain can still be mistaken for a teenager and has the job of a grown-up as he looks to revive a team that has again looked short of confidence.
He needs to turn it into a unit that inspires the fans once more. Given his relationship with the reserved Shakib, and the level of respect he has earned through hard work in the last few years, he is equipped to do the job.
Quite similar to the situation last year, the upcoming series against West Indies starting next month would shape the Tigers’ mindset when Pakistan tours. With talent flickering through and inspiration mostly available when the chips are down, a roller-coaster is the easily predicted path for the Tigers and how they take on West Indies and Pakistan would, in some way, predict the arc, a month or a year, of their next upward swing.