Here Comes Harare...
Harare is 10 hours ahead of my time zone. The first test starts at an odd hour for me. At 9:00 A.M. Harare time, I should be fast asleep, away from all the worries, not a care in the world. A good night's rest is essential.
Yeah, right! I suppose the other cricket fans in my time zone will be doing the same also. The heck with rest, forget the following workday. If the first day shows us any glimpse of promise, we will all be fine with a short morning snooze and a shot of the drink named "Hope".
Now, has our team achievd momentum in it's preperations before the first test? Here's a list of pluses & minuses that are in the minds of all informed fans of Bangladesh cricket:
? That Rana - very promising, isn't he?
? Bashar ain't clicking man! He better gets his acts together from the getgo!
? Bidyut is in top form, eh?
? Boy we miss Mashrafee, Andy never looked comfortable against him!
? Ash is finally out of the rut, encouraging!
? What is up with Hannan and Rajin? Is it the food? Weather may be?
? Masud - The old reliable. Getting runs & taking a lot of catches, took 6 in the 3-day..
? Manjural, need agression, man! Pitch it in the middle.
? Tarek will make up for Masri, look at him go. Even Alamgir got 6 scalps in the 3-day!
? Rafique should have played more.. That's ok. He's a genuine world-class anyways.
? Monir is unimpressive..
? Mushfiq is good
? Hey! Harare pitch has "low bounce", Just like.. just like Dhaka! Alright!
? Rest Alok!
? Drop Alok!
? Drop Alok now!
As for the momentum, yes, there is a build up that we can easily follow, starting with the first OD against Namibia, reaching the crescendo with the 3-day win against the Zimbabwe A team. We are warmed up, hot, ready to go. The rust from 2 months of no international cricket is off our shields. Now, we can spot our strengths and weaknesses more clearly. The run drought continues, we had no big totals in any of the matches. Also, not being able to finish off Namibia in the 3-day must have been the low point so far. But all I all, this has been an ideal warmup. Once the game starts, we will have pleanty to analize, and there will be a bunch of new numbers to deal with. I just want to share two observations with you beforehand.
First, we need more than just two batsmen firing on all cylinders in order to play positive cricket here. Ashraful has a total of 3 fifties and averaging 48 in the warmups (Namibia & Zimbabwe collectively). Shahriar is not too far behind with a 41.6 average. Both players had 5 chances to bat so far. Bashar and Alok, on the other hand, had 6 turns with the willow, both showing a 16 average. Hannan is at 18.2 and Rajin 19.3. It has now become crucial for Bashar, Rajin and Hannan to bat sensibly from the start. With our wins so far, we may have overlooked the emerging weaknesses in the same old batting department. We will miss Javed's expertise with the bat this series. Last time in Zimbabwe he was the Man of the Match in the lost 1st test, for his 2 half centuries and for carrying his bat throughout the second innings. Al Shahriar completely failed to revive his career and I expect to see him sidelined. Depending on how they perform, our specilist batsmen will set the tone for the whole series for us.
Second, will Tarek Aziz and Tapash take care of our pace departmen sufficiently? More specifically, does Tarek's recent performance indicate the birth of a true killer? Should we depend on him bringing in the scalps? Let's look at some interestings facts:
Tarek has never before showed such tenacity with the ball. A few years back, Mohammad Sharif, our then promising pacer, also did very well in the tour match with a five-for in Zimbabwe (2000-2001 series, against CFX academy, 9-1-30-5). His performance in the real battle was mediocre at best. Just recently, Enamul Jr. shined during a tour match against England. He was included in the national side immediately, and, was unimpressive. Same thing with Irfan Pathan (India) and Australia recently. Before the latest series, Steve Waugh and Australian coach both praised India's newfound "fearsome" pacers. Ganguly & company fell right in the trap to push the spinners off the list to accommodate their pace-force. India ended up depending on the old "leg-break googly" Anil Kumble. The aussies, that do daily net practice against Brett Lee, took advantage of the pace force without mercy.
So, here is the radical part: Zimbabwe, as well as other test nations, uses tour matches to gauge the strength of the opponents. Now, it is my belief that they also use these opportunities to mislead the other teams by giving them erroneous feedbacks in terms of results. This tactics comes from a bottle labelled "Old English" (the ancestral connection, you know). Without trying to make little of our achivments, I just want our team management not to read too much into our pace success. History shows, Zimbabwe plays mediup pace extremely well, but can't play the true quickies very well at all. We don't have a quickie. They probably want us to play these pacers. Zimbabwe plays the spinners inconsistantly. They are not at all comfortable against good spin bowling. It slows down the momentum of their whole game. That is exactly what we need. We need to dictate the pace of the game. I'm going out on a limb here, but, I will be quite comfortable to see both of our left armers in the two tests. In the least, they can bowl long, consistant spells. They can also take wickets.
Now, let's close our eyes,
lower our chins,
Ok, now let's wish them well.
(Note: Tareq was dropped from the first test 11after the completion of this article.)