“Towards the end of 2014, Bangladesh cricket was at boiling point. They had gone through their worst losing streak in three years and alarm bells were ringing with the World Cup fast approaching. It had been fifteen years since they were granted Test status and Bangladesh were still struggling to substantiate themselves as a good international side. Victories were few and far between, but then suddenly results started to improve and now their performance graph depicts a steady upward trajectory.”
The Bangladesh cricket team’s recent heroics against India and South Africa has been the talk of the town when it comes to international cricket. After thrashing Pakistan 3-0 in a bilateral one-day series, Bangladesh continued their good run of form and handed shock defeats to India and South Africa by a 2-1 margin. It has been a fantastic turnaround for the tigers and this journey began just a few months ago. It all began at the World Cup 2015, where they beat Afghanistan, Scotland and England to reach the quarter-final for the first time in the history of Bangladesh cricket. They lost to India in the quarters, but won many hearts around the world by playing superb cricket.
Let us look at five reasons why Bangladesh is a transformed unit that is as good as any other team in the world:
1. Mortaza’s Leadership : Change in guard for Bangladesh
Mashrafe Mortaza took over the captaincy in November 2014. Under Mushfiqur Rahim, Bangladesh had gone 13 games without registering a single win in 2014. With less than three months to go for the ICC World Cup, Mortaza stepped in. In 20 games since Mortaza became full-time captain, Bangladesh have lost only five times. He leads the overall wickets tally for all bowlers under his watch, closely followed by Shakib Al Hasan. The pacer’s infectious energy on the field and composure off it has worked wonders for his team. At 31 and with eight years of international cricket behind him, Mortaza’s success as leader has been no fluke.
“Keeping this form is going to be a greater challenge for us. I think it’s good pressure,” he said after the victory against India. After years of repeated failures, it appears that Bangladesh have finally found a leader who understands what it takes to court success in the international arena.
2. The arrival of quality young fast bowlers
Bangladesh has suddenly discovered a good crop of fast bowlers. Rubel Hussain and Taskin Ahmed can both bowl at 140 clicks and can make batsmen jump and fend. Rubel’s final spell against England in the World Cup encounter that sealed the fate of the English side and the fiery one he bowled against India in the quarter final are a clear indication of his ability. In fact, it was interesting to know that on the eve of the second one-dayer against India, Bangladesh was planning a four-pronged pace attack on a fast bouncy wicket at home. Under Heath Streak, a long time war-horse for Zimbabwe and a quality bowler at his peak, the Bangladeshi pacemen have a new found confidence.
3. Fearless top-order batting backed by experienced campaigners:
Third is the fact that a number of batsmen who have been around for a while now are reaching their peak at the same time. Be it Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan or the newer crop of Mahmudullah and Soumya Sarkar, each of these men have played with aggression and responsibility. They were not afraid of attacking Trent Boult and Tim Southee in New Zealand when many other teams folded up against the duo. They were all over James Anderson, Stuart Broad and company in the World Cup and more recently thrashed the Pakistani and the Indian bowlers in home conditions. Soumya Sarkar was adjudged both the Man of the Match and the Man of the Series against South Africa this week. He scored a scintillating 75-ball 90 in the 3rd ODI and also shared a 154-run opening stand with Tamim Iqbal, who stayed unbeaten on 61. Sarkar aggregated 204 runs in the 3-match series.
4. The backroom: Coaches making the difference
In June 2014, Chandika Hathurasingha was appointed as the head coach of the Bangladesh cricket team. The former Sri Lanka cricketer has a precedent coaching experience in Australia, with the New South Wales team. He has also coached Sri Lanka ‘A’ and UAE and his influence can be seen all over. A no-nonsense approach seems to prevail. He has not been afraid to take on the Bangladesh Cricket Board in selection issues; he openly called for discipline from senior players as soon as he took over and made good tactical calls like promoting Mahmudullah up the order.
Heath Streak came in as bowling coach with a primary aim to reduce Bangladesh’s dependency on spin. When he joined, he had outlined his objective of identifying a group of 8-10 pacers who can deliver the goods consistently. It was not viewed as Bangladesh’s traditional strength, but he was allowed to do so. That a fast bowler was leading the side could have eased the transition. The resulting numbers speak for themselves.
5. Finally, it is about team unity. I think this is the most important factor. One can see how the Bangladesh players are all playing like a team. For the longest time Bangladesh cricket was fraught with disunity among players and behind the back intrigues that impacted their on-field performance. Here is a Bangladesh team that is playing as a unit and each of the senior players and coach Hathurasinghe deserve a lot more of credit for this .