Bangladesh: Breaking Hearts and Cycles

Tears of the talismen

When Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib ul-Hasan broke down in tears after Bangladesh’s narrow defeat to Pakistan in the Asia Cup final it was not hard to imagine it was a scene being replicated up and down the country.

Because it wasn’t just a team who came so close to victory, it was an entire nation of Bangladesh fans who having grown so used to defeat, came so close to an unexpected victory. Theirs is a nation of cricket fans whose passion for the game overwhelms their disappointment at their team’s frequent losses since their unveiling as a Test nation in 2000.

As Wright Thompson, writing for ESPN Cricinfo, described them upon his visit to Bangladesh during the 2011 World Cup:

“The entire city is in the streets. Bangladesh, my colleagues tell me, has no winning cricket tradition. The Bangladeshis love the game, love it madly, yet it hurts them again and again.”

This defeat means that the game will have hurt them again, but it will be a different kind of hurt. It may even hurt more than the others, because for the first time in a long time they came to watch their side compete against a top level nation not in hope but expectation. Bangladesh had not just looked like competing, they looked like winning, and when the dust settles and eventually the disappointment subsides, they can look at their team and be proud.

They competed with the giants of Asian cricket, in some high stakes games and performed as well as any of the players which were available in the tournament. Undoubtedly the responsibility fell on the big players to perform, but each played their roles perfectly and lead from the front.

Opener Tamim Iqbal, dropped from the squad initially, regained his old sparkle and perhaps fired by his snub hit four consecutive half centuries in trademark style. Shakib was once again a star with bat and ball. Then there was Rahim himself, who captained with the frenzied energy of a man headed for an asylum rather than a final-but who emerges from the tournament with his reputation greatly enhanced.

Meanwhile they were ably supported by the rest of their cast. Abdul Razzak was economical, Nasir Hossain’s emergence was startling, Mahmadullah continued to make an impact with bat and ball and Mashrafe Mortaza’s rehabilitation gives them a genuine pace bowling figurehead again.

Yet this was a team effort. They fielded as well as any Asian team has done in the past year throughout the tournament-quite an effort considering Sri Lanka’s general dominance. But they fielded aggressively and positively and as a group. Their bowling generally was economical, while the manner in which they chased down totals often after losing key wickets was symptomatic of a team who performed like they believed they belonged.

Younis Khan, speaking ahead of the final, noted the change and said:

“They have some aggressiveness in their body language and that helps to bring about positive results. That is the way an international team should play. They performed as a group; all the bowlers, all the batsmen and all the fielders, they put in their 100%. This is the key thing about their performance.”

If they can continue in this vein, despite the narrow defeat in the final, then this could be the greatest impact this tournament will have on Bangladesh cricket. For too long they have been renowned as plucky losers, often caught up in a cycle of defeat and unable to turn those plucky performances into consistent, positive results.

But in this tournament they showed they can win, and that they can overcome some of the best. For if losing can become a habit, so too can winning and breaking that cycle of defeat they have been caught in far too often before could be the biggest step forward for Bangladesh.

Then who knows what might happen. As head coach Stuart Law surveys the bigger picture, he will see a young team capable of progressing further still, up against teams with aging players who will at some stage have to undergo regeneration. If they can build on this, then victories like these over India and Sri Lanka may arrive with increasing regularity.

Then perhaps the next time they reach the final-they might have learnt a thing or two about getting over the finishing line. So while this time their hearts may have been broken, breaking the cycle of defeat and getting that taste for success could make this a big step in the right direction for Bangladesh’s cricket.

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The IPL Auction: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

For the purists the IPL is the work of cricket’s version is an evil, a Twenty20 cashcow corrupting the purer form of the game. Yet look beyond the hyperbole (which the IPL does very well) and there is something about it, a strange alluring attraction of seeing the world’s best players congregated together.

Nothing is more attractive than seeing the world’s best players being valued and sold off to the highest bidder at will. It is a means of quantifying value and skill-something normally measured purely by runs and wickets.

Meanwhile it also throws up the intriguing prospect of spicy encounters ensuing, Shane Warne and Paul Collingwood or Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds will certainly enjoy sharing dressing rooms.

So here’s a look at the IPL auction and those who could prove value for money, those that probably won’t and those who probably never would have in the first place.

The Hits

Shakib Ul-Hasan ($425,000: Kolkata Knight Riders)

The world’s best all-rounder according to ICC and a steal at that price. Capable spinner, capable batsmen and a proven international who has been pivotal in Bangladesh’s recent resurgence. This could be the tournament which catapults him onto the world stage.

Davy Jacobs ($190,000: Mumbai Indians)

Proven T20 performer with the Warriors and an explosive opening batsman who showed his capability in last year’s Champions League. With other big hitters fetching top dollar, the South African could prove to be a steal at that price.

Aaron Finch ($300,000: Delhi Daredevils)

About to make his Australia T20 debut and you can be sure that his value will skyrocket if he performs well. Delhi will be delighted to have snapped him up before he can showcase his talents.

Eoin Morgan ($350,000: Kolkata Knight Riders)

Before Morgan came along England were mere Twenty20 contenders but now they are world champions thanks in no small part to the wristy Irish genius. Hits the ball in unusual areas-a nightmare for opposing captains-and a brilliant finisher in all forms of the game who any team would want coming in at two or three wickets down.

JP Duminy ($300,000: Deccan Chargers)

A surprise, mainly that he went for such a low price. After fetching $950,000 previously it’s a surprise to see his value drop so far. Sure his recent international form has been disappointing but he’s a class act capable of exploding with the bat in long or short form and a superb fielder to boot.

The Misses

Johan Botha ($950,000: Rajasthan Royals)

So much for a consistent if unspectacular off-spinner. A solid performer, capable of hitting lower order runs and fielding well to boot but it’ll be intriguing to see whether he can live up to the price tag.

Adam Gilchrist ($900,000: Kings XI Punjab)

The guy’s a bona fide legend and a one-time explosive batsmen. Sad thing is that those times were probably four or five years ago. Averaged only 30 in the English T20 season for Middlesex so why, bar experience and leadership qualities and his name, he is worth so much is head scratchingly mystifying.

Robin Uthappa ($2.1 million: Pune Warriors)

On his day he’s a match-winner, but for that price you could pick up a Dwayne Bravo, Graeme Smith, Ishant Sharma and Michael Hussey. Has much to prove and obviously has the talent to perform but does he have the consistency to justify that price tag?

Subramaniam Badrinath ($850,000: Chennai Super Kings)

A run-scorer for sure, and a good one at that. But he has precious little in the way of Twenty20 pedigree and lacks the explosive ability of say Kieron Pollard or AB De Villiers who fetched a similar price.

Ravindra Jadeja ($950,000: Kochi)

The very definition of a bits and pieces player, a decent batsmen and a decent spinner but he scarcely does both facets to be a match-winner which at that price he’d need to be. With Jayawardene and Muralitheran purchased at higher prices by the Kochi franchise it seems they have bought him to support both, but have they paid too much for a utility man?

The Ugly

Brian Lara (Unsold)

Quite what a 41 year old who has been retired from the international game for 4 years and who recently flopped on his comeback in Zimbabwe was expecting is up for debate. His continued presence in the contest was a surprise, and perhaps now it’s time the legend started looking at that great cricketing gig in the sky.

Graeme Swann (Unsold)

Pure English politik. Indian teams were worried about his involvement, though that didn’t stop the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad getting snapped up. Rumours of a lack of a doosra or mystery seem slightly mystifying given that he has risen to the pinnacle of the game using his own method of spin bowling magic.

Tamim Iqbal (Unsold)

The next Sehwag according to some. His absence is a loss for the tournament, as he’ll probably go on and become a star over the next 12 months and have people begging for him to come back next year.

Jesse Ryder (Unsold)

An explosive batsmen, capable bowler and by all accounts readily available for service. His inability to find suitors is frankly bizarre, especially given that he has recently excelled on the sub-continent with New Zealand.

James Anderson (Unsold)

The second best fast bowler in the world behind Dale Steyn who cost $1.2 million, and a recent Ashes winner and match winner to boot. Another capable performer who is a real victim of English politik. While he lacks the versatility with the ball in the shorter form as his team-mate Broad, as he’s recently shown he’s in the prime of his life and would have been a real asset to any team.