Pybus: "Gee, Ash, what do you want to do tonight?"
Ashraful: "The same thing we do every night—try to take over the world!"
Backdrop: Harare Sports Club, Zimbabwe
The last time Bangladeshis went to Zimbabwe, the then Head Coach Stuart Law attested that the team stayed at the hotel and drank Kool-Aid. Okay, perhaps the drinking part was a bit of a stretch. And besides, who are we kidding? The Tigers, fuelled by demanding BCites who wants to sip nothing but the mead and ambrosia in a World Cup chalice, can care less about the breathtaking scenery of the natural Victoria Falls, or the elephants at Hwange National Park. Oh no. Our lads are too busy studying the blueprint of the Harare Sports Club. Our boys are scrutinizing every gait of the South Africans and Zimbabweans like a poker player trying to scrutinize the other players expressions only to find out that predicting the next move may be akin to figuring out trajectory of a de Villiers double bouncer from Ash.
Mushfiqur Rahim (c & wk), Mahmudullah (vc), Tamim Iqbal, Junaid Siddique, Anamul Haque, Mohammad Ashraful, Jahurul Islam, Nasir Hossain, Abdur Razzak, Elias Sunny, Mashrafe Mortaza, Farhad Reza, Nazmul Hossain, Ziaur Rahman and Abul Hasan.
When the students are ready...
Ladies and gents, our boys were not made to chase some pansy 198 (as made by Pakistan against Zimbabwe in 2011) or a measly Kiwi 187, again against the same opposition in 2011. Tamim Iqbal does not want to beat a McCullum 81*, neither does Jahurul want any piece of a Hafeezesque 71* or Anamul pull a measly Raina 72*. Nay. For these lightsaber-swooshing-worldsaver force, there is hardly a 3 or 4 digit number that cannot be put on board. 400, 375, 334 - name your price and the boys will throw the Earth off its axis to make days out of night and prove their point.
260/6 Sri Lanka? Really? That too in T20? Score so weak that might as well send the their whole squad with Jaya to take dance lessons from Madhuri for upper body strength.
However, at the end of the day, for someone of the caliber of Mushfiqur Rahim, who had an outstanding DPL season playing 16 matches and scoring 951 at an average of 73.15, 'it ain't even a party 'til he walks in'...
..the teacher appears
Englishman Richard Pybus's appointment as the national coach of Bangladeshi team in this transitional period can steer results either way- an overloaded, much confused batch of line-cooks with too many chefs, or an elite squad who can successfully integrate the different philosophies and teachings into a winning force. In a classroom like setting, Pybus emphasized team ethos over ego and the abolition of the "star" system. It remains to be seen how much his words will have impact from theory to field, especially given a bunch of laid-back, giggling students passing crumpled notes on whose crush is who.
The first T20 cup was in Surrey, England in 2003. Since the inception, Bangladesh has only played a single T20 match against the Zimbabweans, which they won by 43 runs in the 2006/07 season (Scorecard). It will be a minute since the Tigers have tackled them in this format, with an unofficial tag, but sources say given the number of flashy strokes by Bangladeshis and to produce a Gary Sobers in every over, they are opting to beat the team by 143 runs. Why 143? Is it because it's 100 more than the previous margin? Or rather, a tongue'n'cheek, branding of a cryptic message to be reversed from "I Love You"?
Sibanda, Taylor, Taibu, Chigumbura will be the stars to watch out for Zimbabwe team. Given the relative weakness of Zimbabweans when contrasted with the Proteas, Bangladesh is opting to rest Shakib-al-Hasan, or gift some Rubelesque byes for headstart (or, whichever comes first).
#takethat South Africa
One can vividly recall some flurry of drives and cuts that Ashraful dispatched Kleinveldt and M. Morkel before succumbing to sledging and throwing away his wicket to Botha. While Ashraful might not be the closet vrotbek but to get on the nerve of the sneeudier, he has familiarized himself with some Jo'Burgian Afrikaans. Only if he could distinguish his skyf from skief with some vors and meelie meal, in his stetson hat, gold rimmed monocle and tux, the country as a whole, could have moved on to the next phase:
Mayhem among jacarandas
Theoretically, a Bangladesh tournament win is unlikely as the team with their lackadaisical attitude to practice matches may not yet realize the pivotal importance that this summer will play as a dress rehearsal to ICC World T20 later this year.
Furthermore, while the Tigers have performed brilliantly in the just concluded Asia Cup, it remains to be seen if they can translate their ODI successes to shorter format of the game, especially with a rusty Tamim Iqbal, who was benched by the Pune Warriors for the majority of the IPL season.
As for the positives, Mohammad Ashraful could not find any sweeter time to pick his comeback. It's T20. It's a trial. And Bangladesh on a post-Asia Cup high.
Newcomer Ziaur Rahman, who hit the most number of sixes in the DPL, is another interesting prospect and the nation would be anxious to see how the other 'debutants'perform along with him.
Pybus spoke about teamwork over ego, Ashraful is back with his sjambok and a million-dollar swagger, and the team as a whole is a point where it is about to peak. One only associates a serene image of a jacaranda surrounded Harare Sports Club with a gabled pavilion. Planning a mayhem on this track may require much premeditation, but will Bangladesh be up for it?
Editors note: Afrikanerisms and other vocabulary
mealie-meal: staple diet of sub-Saharan Africa of a coarse, flour made from maize to produce porridge or other foods
sneeudier: old person
skief: to glare at someone (root: Afrikaans 'skeef', skew)
skyf: cigarette, a puff, and also less commonly marijuana or dagga.
vors: Boerewors, or sausage
vrotbek: someone who swears a lot or is swearing a lot at the moment