Monday, June 17, 2024

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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Playing like a broken record

The audience wants sporting excellence, not a stale soap opera

Update : 06 Nov 2023, 12:58 PM

If there was a World Cup for playing the blame game, Bangladesh would be the undoubted favourites. If there was a World Cup for unscripted soap operas, no other team could even think of competing.

The Tigers began their 2023 World Cup campaign with the hope of making an impact, given the subcontinent conditions and promising ODI Super League campaign. Hope over expectation has been a key theme for Bangladesh in over 20 years of underachievement. Bangladesh’s passionate supporters, of which there are millions, still yearn for the days where their beloved Tigers deliver on the world stage, rather than offering flickers of promise with the occasional strong performance against quality opponents in bilaterals.

In a cricket-crazy nation that has promised plenty, why is it that, in 2023, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah, and Shakib Al Hasan are required to perform rebuilds, with them looking a pale shadow of their best self? Where is the progress, and more importantly, what is the plan in Bangladesh’s cricketing fraternity to contend for major titles?

Instead of taking charge to ensure its cricket is in good hands, the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), led by Nazmul Hassan Papon, seems to spend most of its time pointing fingers. The public disputes between the BCB, players, and coaches scream of a broken system where the organization does not have its own house in order. 

Indeed, one can only wonder if the BCB has any competent media managers briefing their own to keep any disagreements, of which there seem to be many, private.

Instead of wrapping up their preparations for the tournament, Bangladesh spectacularly burnt bridges with arguably their greatest ever batter, Tamim Iqbal, in an episode that would surely achieve record ratings on Netflix. Tamim, who has had his injury worries, would surely have produced better than the Tigers’ almost non-existent top order have in the ongoing World Cup. Worse, the conflicting stories shared in the media from different parties confirms the obvious -- Bangladesh cricket is not operating as a unit.

On the eve of a World Cup campaign, Shakib called Tamim “childish” and “not a team man” in a public interview. Who is advising Shakib? Is he being advised? Was he never told to not air out dirty laundry in public, but to rein it in and ensure there is as much unity as possible? What must be going through young players’ minds when they see Bangladesh’s best ever cricketer and captain publicly criticize another top player? It may even subconsciously put them into their shell and make them afraid to make a mistake.

In the aforementioned interview, Shakib stated he was “sure someone who is authorized had said this to Tamim” about the long time opener moving down the batting order. 

"I am sure whoever has said it, he thought of the team,” Shakib continued. “A lot of things go into building a combination for a match. So if someone has said this to him, was it wrong? Or we can't make such a proposal? I am just going to tell someone that you can do whatever you want. Is the team first or the individual?"

All the passive “ifs,” “sures,” and “whoevers” paint the picture. Not only did Shakib not know who told Tamim, he seemed unsure whether anyone briefed Tamim at all. Bangladesh legend and former captain Mashrafe Mortaza hit the nail on the head when he said this whole episode could have been avoided with a simple conversation.

Add to that the issue of media leaks from within the Bangladeshi camp, leaving millions to wonder whether they are true or as part of an agenda.

What a mess. And this is before Nazmul Hossain Papon comes into the frame. The man who is quick to point fingers in different directions without providing direction himself.

Back in July, he questioned Tamim’s professionalism publicly after the opener revealed the injuries he had been battling. “Is this like a street match? Or play among amateurs? How can a captain of international cricket talk like this?” said Papon to a Bangladeshi newspaper.

Soon after, Tamim announced his retirement from international cricket in the middle of an unsuccessful ODI series at home to Afghanistan, where Bangladesh clearly looked distracted. Then, Papon said, “we will do whatever Tamim wants” after the latter reversed his retirement after a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

In the end, it seems BCB did not do “whatever Tamim wants.”

Here’s the issue. This episode is not new to Bangladesh cricket. Shakib has had his fair share of behavioural issues, but the board has a lot to answer for as well. Public spats and poor communication have been a common feature over the years, from Shakib publicly admitting he didn’t want the Test captaincy as Bangladesh suffered an embarrassing home defeat in a rain-affected match against Afghanistan in 2019, to Papon’s public outburst after losing to Scotland in the 2021 T20 World Cup. 

Instead of going to the newspapers, how about going to local cricket matches to assess the talent? Instead of asking why Bangladesh lost to Scotland, ask why the Bangladesh Premier League, which had incredible potential, has not experienced the growth it should? Why hasn’t the competition, which kicked off over a decade ago, provided the national team with quality white-ball cricketers?

Bangladesh, unless it changes its ways, will always underachieve. Fans were quick to slam the side after a horror showing against the Netherlands in Kolkata, with thousands of passionate supporters streaming out of Eden Gardens as the Tigers’ batting once again reflected a side lacking focus and direction. Soon after, they surrendered to Pakistan in an all-too-familiar showing.

A fish rots from the head down. If the board has no interest to look inward, the on-field displays will match. Bangladesh cricket will only realize its potential once everyone comes together united to achieve a common goal rather than trying to “one up” the other. 

Until that day comes, Bangladesh, a proud and passionate cricketing nation, will always have the tag of “what if.”

Charbel Coorey is the owner and founder of cricblog.net.

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