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The first test win is in the books. Done with.

Ten years from now, no one will care whether the present Zim team should have had one-or two "other" players or not. Even less so, when, in one or two years, with 1-2 more batsmen and 1 quality pacer and spinner, this Zim team will become as strong as the previous versions. That bane of our Test cricket existence, the "learning curve" applies equally to them these days and I have no doubt they will come through with flying colours. Athletically, they are a gifted bunch, and in Taibu they have a pugnacious fighter and will not be any more "two-race, two-bus" type of off-the-field headaches to deal with.

Miscellaneous thoughts from an arm-chair all-rounder

Published: 13th January, 2005

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[Disclaimer: The only video evidence I have seen are those 7 clips everyone else has seen. I am basing these following thoughts on not just thoseclips but on various 2nd party oversvations/commentaries and my own knoweldge of some of the players and teams involved.]

The first test win is in the books. Done with.

Ten years from now, no one will care whether the present Zim team should have had one-or two "other" players or not. Even less so, when, in one or two years, with 1-2 more batsmen and 1 quality pacer and spinner, this Zim team will become as strong as the previous versions. That bane of our Test cricket existence, the "learning curve" applies equally to them these days and I have no doubt they will come through with flying colours. Athletically, they are a gifted bunch, and in Taibu they have a pugnacious and rapidly maturing leader. Above all there will not be any more "two-race, two-bus" type of off-the-field headaches to deal with.

Self-belief that we can indeed win in these, the most "Testing" of arenas?

Done! So what next?

Well there is the immediate, and somewhat non-trivial matter of 1 more Test and 5 ODIs with a wounded eagle (I looked it up - the Zimbabwe national bird is "fish-eagle"). Perhaps Taibu & Co. are not capable of unleashing the same fury as Messrs Tendu & Shewag (and hopefully we will not be hauling out any more old-timers as our \"attack\"**), but, fight back they will and with everything they have got. Therefore, victory in our next 6 international matches is not a given.

Then there is the small matter of a first ever series at the birthplace of cricket, followed by a triangular affair involving this other team named Australia.In between there is hope for some first-class action with the Duleep trophy and our very own, forgotten, and almost lost National League.

Let us explore each of these issues and attempt to make sense of what the Tigers could and should do.

The rest of the Zim tour

This present Zimbabwe team has some talented players like Chigumbara, Payangara, Taylor et al, with depth in batting. The bowling, at present, looks a tad green, but against our batting, they are capable of getting wickets. Let\\\'s think of a hypothetical scenario. Zimbabwe wins the toss in Dhaka and takes advantage of that dustbowl before it crumbles and becomes Enam and Rafique\\\'s playground. They utilizise their depth, bat with the tenacity that they displayed during the 1st innings in Chittagong, and set a 400 plus total. Then they field like demons. Both of these acts we know they are capable of executing. In such a scenario, it could be quite possible for BD to succumb to a defeat or having to force out a draw. In fact, my gut instinct tells me no matter the toss, the 2nd Test\\\'s most likely result is a draw.

What should be the team composition and pitch condition then?

Let\\\'s tackle the easy one. Pitch.

Until Bangladesh suddenly discovers a wicket taking 3rd seamer - sit down Talha, you aren\\\'t there yet - the pitch must be a turner with just a hint of bounce. Masree and Tapash are crafty enough to wean something out of the new ball and they are not WACA worthy yet. Our curators must ensure they do not provide any belated Christmas gifts to Zimbabwe\\\'s bevy of medium pacers by preparing a bouncy green-top.

Then there is the team selection.

Unless injuries force it - we should not change the winning team. Not only because it is a winning combination but also because the replacements do not bring a significantly higher probabilty of performance.

JO\\\'s poor form? He is still one of the better ones in the side at knowing where his off-stump is and with the pace of Zim bowlers, his fading reflexes are not a liability yet. He is also probably a good influence on "bhatija" - this is a guy who carried his bat in both innings of a Test match.

As for his replacements; Rokon is in good nick but he\\\'s not an opener in 1st class matches. He\\\'s a poor man\\\'s Afridi (Shewag has a few test tons so please no comparisons there). Hannan & Kapali? Too early for the former, jet lag and not enough 1st class for the latter. If push comes to shove and JO can\\\'t make it, Rajin should be pushed up the order and Rokon accommodated in the middle order. Let\\\'s hope though it doesn\\\'t come to that. Another thought to consider - because of our propensity to lose a wicket within 1-2 overs, Bashar is almost a de-facto opener. One wonders

Rafique\\\'s hammie? A major worry. He and Enam complement each other well. One bowling darts which give you no room, for runs or mistakes, and the other looping, and inviting you to commit, just before the cobra spits off the track and gets you. Here\\\'s hoping electro therapy and massage does the trick. We need Rafique to win - as much psychologically as in terms of just wicket.

If Rafique can\\\'t make it, then the two ** asterisks I had about old-timers come in. This 2nd match is no time to blood new talent - it will be trench warfare. This might be a case where we bring that old horse - Naimur Rahman Durjoy - for one final fight. Such an act is not w/o precedent. If memory serves me correctly, India did that occasionally with Raju, England with Tufnel and Australia with May. Durjoy is in good form, he\\\'s got the confidence of a Test Pfeiffer at Dhaka stadium, and he\\\'s unlikely to be over-awed by the occasion or the opposition. If Durjoy is totally unacceptable to the selectors than you fall back on Rana - he\\\'ll hopefully keep one end tight and try his best. Rana would be a very defensive move though - as would bringing back Mushfique.

That settles the Test match area, but what about ODIs?

On evidence of Zimbabwe\\\'s performance in similar pitches in Pakistan and the 4-game series against England, their ability to strike lusty blows and field well makes them a very very competitive prospect in the ODIs. In fact, we the fans should be prepared for a 3-2 result (hopefully in our favor).

In the ODIs JO should be dispensed with and Rokon given a whirl. He\\\'s hit and miss but is very capable of being a flat-track bully - witness his whirlwind century against Namibia and recently, Zimbabwe. Rana should get some games too as should Kapali. But let\\\'s not go all India and start rotating the side wholesale. On the bowling front, it is time to find out if the remedial actions on Razzak Raj have been fruitful and if Sharif can reprise his reverse-swinging, bowling at the death role. However, the question of is which of our top 3 ODI pacers (Masree, Tapash or Nazmul) do you drop. So I say, play our best side (the one that beat India) in the 1st two ODIs and see where we stand.

Onto Duleep and the NL

The Duleep trophy is ideal for giving players such as Talha, Shafaq, Sharif and Razzak Raj the chance to get some needed 1st class experience. From the batting side, Shamsur, the other Nafis, perhaps Aftab, Hannan and Kapali should go. No point in sending Tushar or Rokon, they have already done these tours in the past. Another player to think of is Faisal Hossain - though he doesn\\\'t seem to be making much noise in the Dhaka leagues.

As to the NL - ensure that all BCB contracted players play. None of the \"I miss my family in Narail or Barishall\". At the same time all team coaches and physios should coordinate with Dave and Steve K so that there is a consistency of message and exercise regimen. The pitches should be bouncy and the board should make it very clear that slots on the England tour are going to be given to top performers. Spread that message loudly and often. This is where Tushar & Rokon must make themselves heard.

It also wouldn\\\'t hurt if BCB were to actively promote the NL with a weekly highlights show on one of the Satellite channels. It gives exposure of 1st class cricket to our fans. As another board author astutely pointed out, our fans need to learn about 1st class cricket as much as our payers.

The England Tour

This tour will make or break our reputation as a cricketing nation. Fair or not, English journalists wield tremendous influence. If we are able to make a competitive affair out of this tour, the Brits with their inherent fondness for underdogs, will be won over and we can expect the incessant carping on our Test status to ratchet down significantly. Falter or make a hash out of the tour, and we can anticipate the baying of \"test cricket devaluation\" to reach new heights. As such, the team and the board must cover all bases.

Schedule.

Break with the current trend and organize loads of practice matches before the bullets are flying for real. Be it Scotland, or minor counties or other counties\\\' 2nd elevens. England in May is as foriegn an environment as can be to our players (never mind if they do indeed get better curry than they would get at home ;) In that double-jumper cold, every fielding attempt stings your fingers just that bit more, and even a two over break in the outfield will tighten up your hammies like nothing. On the english green-toos the ball will seam and swing and the soft grounds will give very little purchase to our spinners. To acclimatise to these conditions our players must have at least 2 3day and 2 4-day games. Bangladesh should play up the probashi community aspects in terms of making the couties agree to matches.

Player skills/coaching

Batting in England will be first and foremost about playing the moving ball. It is vital when one plays the swinging ball to get quickly on the front foot and if one is to play a shot to do so whole-heartedly.

If I may be allowed a trip down memory lane, I recall a cold, English like morning in Cambridge, MA 3-4 years ago. Our club was playing against an Indian club and they had an excellent new ball swing bowler (he had finished in the top 5 wicket takers the year before in the State league). Anyway, within 2-3 overs of bending the cherry around the corners, he had our top 4 batters out including two to half-hearted drives. Now I claim to be no great batsmen, but by the simple dint of standing a foot outside the crease, focusing on playing in the V and ensuring that I lowered my leading right shoulder before every shot to get maximum power, I was able to drive him for 4-5 bowlers back boundaries, the one edge I had flew over slips, and wouldn\\\'t you know it, my team suddenly had a partnership going. Soon the ball lost its shine and the swing master was neutralised.

Why do you I recount this story? Because after the match - which we lost handily by the way - the bowler came up to me and told me that I was one of the few subcontinental batsmen who had ever adopted that technique against me. He claimed that English batters were always able to play him well with their cocked elbow and straight-bat approach, but \\\'desi\\\'s always got out trying to hoik him or work him to the onside. The moral being - unless you have Gilly\\\'s bat-speed, Shewag\\\'s eye or Hayden\\\'s power, do the the prudent thing and focus on your technique. While the practice matches will help our batsmen must spend hours getting their frontfoot techniques down.

At the same time, England will have in their arsenal a certain Mr. Harmison and Flitoff making special deliveries to our batsmen\\\'s midriffs and thereabouts. Unless the player\\\'s name is Ashraful or Bashar, out batsmen must become adept at the weave. They have their own home-town expert in Rajin Saleh to show them the way. One of the revelations of the Windies tour was Rajin\\\'s extreme supple and flexible body, smartly swaying out of harms way as Best, Fidel at al tried to intimidate him. Please - let us not attempt take these two on. Let discretion, as it is so capable of, being the better part of our valor.

In terms of bowling, the 99WC and Monjurul\\\'s wonderful displays of control of swing should be our guideline. Having just checked into our scorecards, all the other pacers, Hasibul, Shafiuddin and even Chacha were guilty of not being able to control the swing at times. Again, this is where the practice matches with the English Duke balls should come in handy.

Team selection for the two tests.

I am assuming a 16 member squad here.

England in early summer is a spinner\\\'s graveyard unless you spin the ball prodiguously ala a Warne of Muralitharan, or happen to be a master of changes of pace. So for most of our matches, we will probably feature one spinner and it will probably come down to a straight choice between Enam & Rafique. Believe it or not, Enam has the edge at present because he just recently had a tour or England (thus being more familiar with the conditions) and he is also a bigger turner of the ball. I am - and this will raise the ire of many a forum poster - skeptical of Rafiques impact on the soft english greentops. Unless he pulls a Kumble and essentially morphs his approach to a slow medium bowler, Rafique might struggle to take wickets. However, and yes, this is a broken record, that\\\'s what the practice matches are for. :) We are now left with 14 slots.

So which pacers get to go? Unless Masree and Tapash stink up the joint in the coming months or are unfit, these two are a shoo-in. As should, in probability be Nazmul. In subcontinental conditions he is not a Test player but as the Champion\\\'s trophy and the recent U-19 tour showed, in English conditions, he\\\'s our very own Hoggard; the accurate, whole hearted stock bowler who picks up a wicket or two. We should take 5 pacers but because of the extra spinner, we can only take one more. I suspect it will come down to a choice between Mr. Sharif and Talha. I had high hopes for Shafaq - what with him adding the variety of being a lefty and his experience of NZ U-19 WC (similar conditions) - but the recent 4-day match seems to indicate that he\\\'s a few A-team tours short of being the finished article. At any rate, let the best man (based on A-tour and NL form) win.

That leaves us 10 slots. One goes to Pilot (no explanation needed there). Bashar, Ashraful are also pretty much a certainty. So now 7 slots. We need 3 openers. The hope here is that Hannan comes through. He really is a compact guy and England don\\\'t have any left arm pacers in their team horizon. Ideally he and Nafis would open, and the back up opener could be JO or if the A-team form warrants it - the other Nafis. The opening slot is really up there at this point and more information is needed.

The four middle order slots? Rajin & Aftab are near certainties, and it would be wonderful if Shamsur could get a senior tour in for the experience of it all. Then, based on form, Kapali, Rokon or Tushar get in.

Finally, the team selection for the triangular series.

Let\\\'s face it, playing against England in their backyard with Freddie on their side, and then the OZs - we will be lucky if we get some decent totals (evidence - Champion\\\'s Trophy & WC 99). The 5 ODI series with Zim will potentially have identified whether Rokon, Kapali and Sharif are ready for the big time, because we will need all 3 to be in top form to be competitive. At their best, Rokon and Kapali strike the ball cleanly and time it sweetly (respectively) - we will need that to keep up with the likes of Gilly, Flintoff, Clark, and Trescothick. And Sharif is shaping up to be bowler who can bat a bit, which we will need in the ODIs. As a fallback we will have Chacha/Babu. One thing for sure - we need our ODI order settled by this tri series. No time for experimentation with pinch hitters in this one.

So there you have it - one amateur pundits prescription for Bangladesh. Hopefully BD Tigers will keep on roaring.

 

About the author(s): Razab Q. Chowdhury feels particularly adept at being an armchair critic based on his past history of playing school cricket and dispatching a slew of West Indian cricketers while at college. He deigns to grace our forum as RazabQ and is a forum moderator.

 

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