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The victory tastes so sweet (2005)
The bitter sweet loss (2004)
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?A captain for the Champions Trophy will also be named Tuesday. He will be the choice of the BCB president,? said BCB?s cricket committee chairman Mahbub Anam on Monday.

O Captain! My Captain!

Published: 25th August, 2004


?A captain for the Champions Trophy will also be named Tuesday. He will be the choice of the BCB president,? said BCB?s cricket committee chairman Mahbub Anam on Monday.

According to media, former captain Khaled Mahmud is foremost in the running for the makeshift responsibility. Vice-captain Rajin Saleh and another ex-captain Khaled Mashud were also reportedly in contention.

Two interesting points here. Why the BCB has to rely solely on its president, can't the cricket operations committee make the call? If the decision is so hard, how one person could make it simple?

Anyway, lets try to analyze the situation.

First we need to set a target. To a minimum, we need to stage a respectable show in the Champion's Trophy as well as in the practice matches. Our mission would be fairly accomplished if we manage to win comfortably all of the practice matches and tight games in the trophy. A win against the West Indies is not out of the reach. Any win in the trophy would be a much welcome bonus.

Second point refers to how we could reach that target. Against Hong Kong in the recently concluded Asia Cup, we managed to score 221 runs. Even though we ended up winning by a huge margin of 116 runs, officials in the BCB, media and fans were not that satisfied. It went further downhill with the progressive dismal performance with the bat that were to follow in that tournament.

A closer look would reveal that all the dissatisfactions circled around our bating only. No one voiced a single word against our bowling except for a few raised eyebrows about the match against the Lankans.

At this point, it would be fair to say that we are not too unhappy with our current available bowling attack while the batting continues to give us missing heart beats.

It is prudent that we need improvements in the batting department more than the attacking one.

Now, lets try to define "respectable show" (winning is the best show, I wouldn't discuss it here). It is the kind of performance that has the potential to give us much relief even if we end up in the loosing side. Two hypothetical situation may help us visualize the scenario.

In the first example, we score 250+ and end up loosing by any margin. In the second, we score less than 150 and end up loosing by any margin.

Unless it is really close, like a one wicket or just few runs defeat, we can not take much positives from the second example. On the other hand, 250+ would provide much boast to our delight irrespective of the margin of loss.

Rajin Saleh

Rajin Saleh

Here again we see that improved batting is the call of the time. Concomitant improvement in the bowling is desirable but not at the cost of a batting hope.

With the addition of Nazmul, our attack is even better. Too bad, we can't have the service of Razzak at the moment.

Tapash, Aziz, Nazmul, Mahmud, Mushfiq, Rafique and Rana comprise our attack. We need five from the seven in any match. Tapash seems to be a natural choice. One spinner is essential according to the pundits. Both Rafique and Rana are capable of doing their job well with the ball. Rana's remarkable consistency and flexibility with the bat make him an automatic choice in the final eleven. Isn't it time to spare him all those unsetling changes and to capitulate on his alround capabilities instead?

Only an expert could say if we need two SLAs in a match or not. The weather and pitch might also play a role in this regard.

Nazmul enjoyed some recent success in the English condition. Yes it was against the juniors, but managing the ball to swing and to deliver the ball to the right place are functions of ability more than the quality of the opponent. If he doesn't succumb to major disaster in the practice matches, I believe, he deserves a place in at least one of the two matches.

Mushfiq is a true work horse. He works real hard to make things happen. On his day he could give quite a scare to the batsmen. But after tying the knot he seems to have divided concentration. Of course we can't blame him. I don't consider him to be an alrounder though, not at least for now.

Mahmud. The master of deception in our cricket. He is by far the only pacer who uses his brain more than any of his compatriots while bowling. He also seems to have some tricky variations (deception?) in his bag. Careless batsmen will pay dearly to his magic. But the careful ones will have little mercy on Mahmud, as the history will testify. His batting is comparable to any other bowlers and at times may be just a little higher.

Aziz on the other hand is a decent pace bowler. He is dangerous if the pitch shows early movements. But his real worth lies in the slog overs where he proved remarkable talent and cool many a times. With the bat, he can spend quite some time at the crease collecting valuable singles and providing support. I wouldn't hesitate to put my faith on him at the moment.

Since Rana can justify his position as a batsman alone and Tapash is our best hope with Aziz a close second, that leaves us with two bowlers to choose from four. A rotation among the fours depending upon their performance in the practice matches is a good way to go. We can even include Aziz in the loop if we want to. So there is no automatic choice beyond Tapash and Rana. And none of the rest can justify his position as a batsman.

A captain must ensure his place in the playing eleven not only for just one match but also for all of them. With this analysis, Mahmud can not replace a batsman and must fight for his place as a bowler first before he can be considered to lead the tigers. His contention to the captaincy can not be justified at present.

Khaled Masud has his place written in stone for a while now. His performance is very good. But leadership qualities were absent not too long ago. Under Whatmore and with time, the former skipper had chances to reflect on his weaknesses. The coach, selectors and his close associates would have a better idea. He is a rightful contender of the captaincy.

Rajin Saleh had some bad patches. But towards the end of the Asia Cup, he again showed glimpses of hopes. We still can count on him big time as long as he is at the crease. With the absence of Bashar, his place in the eleven is firmer than ever. As the current vice captain, he had opportunities to experience closely the rigors of leadership and to prepare himself accordingly. He can genuinely claim the temporary skipper ship.

If we can manage to stay above all emotions and look with utmost professionalism for a captain, we can easily rule out Mahmud. With the remaining two, both has weaknesses. But the argument of age in case of Rajin is futile. He is young, true, but old enough to play Test cricket, good enough to justify his place in the squad and be a vice captain. But his inexperience as a captain is a negative point. Masud has experience, but a tainted one, with both bowling rotation and behavior.

Remember Bashar, our captain? He also didn't had experience as a captain either. In fact, unless given the opportunity, nobody will have experience. I personally believe and many would agree that, neither Masud nor Rajin will make serious blunder as a temporary captain for the coming few matches. Even if they do, that would be very unfortunate.

Now lets break the tie. With Masud being the skipper, we have nothing much to achieve for future captaincy in one hand and denying Rajin an opportunity to gather experience on the other. With Rajin being the skipper, denying Masud will not have any negative effect on him or on the team.

Finally, this will not be the only time we'd face such dilemma. If history is of any indication, we will have our regular captain not playing in a match or two for one reason or the other. Do the BCB guys have to scratch their heads and pull whatever hairs left every time that happens? We need to think twice before breaking an established protocol once it is made. If we break the protocol now, make no mistake, it will be broken many a times. But if we set a solid professional example now, it wouldn't be easy to break day after tomorrow.

Credit: Walt Whitman for the title.


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