Let's put things in focus here about this young man: He is only nineteen years of age, from Sylhet. He received both his test and ODI caps in 2002, in the tour against Sri Lanka. Since then, he played in 28 test innings and 37 ODIs. Here's how he looks in batting:
|Batting and Fielding:
Well, the numbers against his name are not all that impressive. No hundreds yet, average is low and his strike rate just adds more confusion to the analysis. Yet, you can ask his coach, selectors and his fans about Alok. They would all say: "He's got style." Andrew Miller's profile on him in cricinfo.com says "batsman of undoubted potential". He may just be the most technically sound Bangladeshi batsman yet.
Well, Alok was first picked for his leg break bowling, as the readers might remember: the leggie that can bat some too. He goes to bat for the first time, impresses everyone. His scores in first five tests: 39, 23, 35, 10, 38*, 23 & 52 strongly established his claim as a middle order bat. His first two back-to-back fifties came against the West Indians. Although his ODI debut wasn't as good, overall he was a discovery, our new batting sensation. One point of note: this kid can play the fastball; he's had good scores against Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies.
As of yet, lest we forget, he scored 2 fifties for Bangladesh in the Pak tour of 2003. That however, as we all know, was not the highlight of achievement for him at the tour. He bagged the first Bangladeshi hat trick in the second test. Let's re-live that great moment once more:
106.5 Alok Kapali to Shabbir Ahmed, OUT: Gone! good flighted wrong one pitches outside off, Shabbir drives uppishly straight to mid off fielder in the hand of Mortaza
106.6 Alok Kapali to Danish Kaneria, OUT: flipper from kapali, pitches outside off, Kaneria left it, hit on the back leg, but well outside the line of the off stump, huge appeal for lbw, Tiffen finger goes up. Kapali on hattrick
108.1 Alok Kapali to Umar Gul, OUT: Hattrick!! flipper from Kapali, Gul pads it away, ball hit the back pad in front of off stump, huge appeal for lbw, Tiffen finger goes up, that's the hattrick for Kapali.
With that flipper, this bright young man placed himself and his country in an exclusive, small club of test cricket history. He also gave us our very first lead (66 run) in test cricket; we outlasted a formidable opponent by many overs for the first time. After this moment in spotlight, he still did reasonably well in the ODIs with two fifties.
So, when did Kapali's lean period begin? Pretty much at the Pakistan tour, I must say. Starting with that fateful second test, his scores are 4, 16, 11, 22, 28, 12, 0 & 19 in tests, (let's remember here that he did not get to bat against Zimbabwe in the 2 recent tests). His ODI scores since the Pakistan tour are 0, 2, 2, 9, 18, 8, 5 & 1. This is not too far from "dismal" in the performance scale.
What has happened? Complacency? At the "ripe" age of nineteen? Does he already feel "Accomplished"? Is he thinking of a change of profession seriously? Busy with school? Since none of the above fit right with his possible scenario, we wonder. Have we expected too much from him? Has he felt pressured to perform? Do we do the same to our other young players?
A case in point here: Manjural Isalm Rana. He was sent in to open the batting recently against Zimbabwe in the 5th ODI. He did very well. Since then, we have tried him again, where he did not perform up to expectation. If we follow the brief cricketing career of this guy, we see that his style is late over slog runs, or, in the least, he does well coming down the order. In an effort to resolve our opener problem, we had to try him once or twice, I guess. The point I am trying to make here, due to the persistent failure of our so-called top batsmen, Alok may have felt pressured to perform and fill the gap of a top-order hitter.
Another observation: Rafique, our "World-Class SLA", had gone through a time of "lack of direction" also in his career. At times the team tried pushing him up the batting order. We tried to use his hitting ability in the ODIs. We picked Enamul over him regularly. Rafique would be picked for a game where he would not perform well. The selectors then would drop him in the next one. Well, Rafique ultimately found his calling and turned out nicely. Alok Kapali may be dealing with an identity crisis also. With our only hat trick under his belt, he may be wondering where he belongs.
I sincerely hope he sorts things out. Being a regular of the national team, Kapali has access to plenty of psychological and motivational help. We want to see him reach his full potential. He may have been cut from the rest of the West Indies tour (as reported in some newspapers). Well, this may be just what he needs. Let him take a break from the busy routine. We want to see him back in business real soon with menacing hunger for runs. The Alok fans would love to see him come back and apply himself with more diligence, build fast and big innings. We want to see him beat the seam clean off of that red thing. We want Alok and Bangladesh cricket to succeed together. Best wishes.