Sports - Sunday Musings

Learning a lesson from Bangladesh

Passion, commitment and the will to win – those were the vital ingredients that the green clad Bangladesh cricketers possessed during their conquering march through the Asia Cup tournament. They may have fallen at the post but they made sure that cricket as a whole was the ultimate winner. Then it was cricket in the South Asian sub-continent which received a certificate of benefit. Why? With this show, the Bangladeshi cricketers have added another 160 million cricket fans to the sub-continental larder without any doubt.

This also means that the sub-continent’s cricket politics becomes so much stronger. The cricket market here has gone up by more than a few notches and hopefully the BCCI does not end up being the ultimate beneficiary of this progress. There is now officially another major force in the big leagues of cricket who could take on any other side on their own terms with over 160 million people to back them. Now imagine if Pakistan could also burn the bridges and see a new dawn in their home cricket. What a boon it would be to the ever so good Television magnates?

That’s the brighter side of the picture. There is another side to the picture hidden by the darker side of the wall. Just prior to this upsurge in Bangladesh’s cricket, they too hosted a T-20 cricket carnival, the Bangladesh Premier League, where they had the likes of Keiron Pollard of the West Indies, Herschelle Gibbs of South Africa and our own Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya showcasing their skills. This tournament seems to have had a positive influence on their cricket, whereby they have lost their fear for the foreigner. Yet, the taste of T-20 could mean another setback to the all-pure form of Test cricket. In India it has already happened. During their tours of England and Australia they crash landed with a huge thud. Cricket in Bangladesh is yet too young to suffer repercussions of that nature.

In the first game they fell short by 21 runs to Pakistan and then felled the 2011 World Cup finalists – India and Sri Lanka-in successive outings. What more could you ask for? They learned the art of winning and Pakistan, the other standing giant, also felt the wrath of the ‘Tiger’. They came as close as two runs to being devoured.

However Sri Lanka’s plight in the Asia Cup 2012 was the most woeful in their cricket history. Sri Lanka was a side that never went below No 2 in the tournament’s rankings except for its first year when India and Pakistan met in the final in 1983/84. Since then the finalists have been (First mentioned – the winner) 1985/86 Sri Lanka vs Pakistan, 88/89 India vs Sri Lanka, 90/91 India vs Sri Lanka, 1995 India vs Sri Lanka, 1997 Sri Lanka vs India, 2000 Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, 2004 Sri Lanka vs India, 2008 Sri Lanka vs India, 2010 India vs Sri Lanka and in 2012. This time Sri Lanka was the bottom of the table without a single win.

In the background someone just brought to my notice that Rangana Herath was sent to Sri Lanka from Down Under in order for the lad to rest and get prepared for the England series. Yet, after two grueling tours of South Africa and Australia – the most challenging cricketing outposts on the globe- weren’t some of the seniors like Mahela Jayawardena, T.M. Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews (mind you he was injured) and even young Dinesh Chandimal given a rest and some light net work in preparation for the coming Test series against England.

Bangladesh possessed grit and the will to win and that made the difference.

Through the grapevine we hear plans were afoot to send a young side under Upul Tharanga for the Asia Cup, yet the seniors insisted that they should be there to take part in the tournament. Was it the US$ 3000 plus the other exploits per match that wrinkled their minds or else were they under the impression that after doing so well in Australia they would have a free run in Bangladesh?

Yet when things were going wrong the seniors blamed the tight itinerary that left them no breathing space between three international commitments.

This is where the cookie crumbles. At this point we clearly agree with the national selectors who gave priority to the impending Test series rather than a secondary One-Day International tournament which was sandwiched between two important series - Australia and England.

Then if the argument was that the players were tired, why weren’t the fresh legs of Shaminda Eranga tried out for any of the games? He was sent to Bangladesh when Mathews was forced to return through injury. Then the decision of sending Chamara Kapugedera will stand out like a sore thumb even in the future. It may be true that Kapugedera was the highest scorer in Sri Lanka’s final outing. Yet, there were more deserving cases languishing at home who had scored substantially in the domestic tournament. Test and ODI discard Chamara Silva has been in wonderful nick this season while Thilan Samaraweera had a good stay at the crease.

With these inclusions, maybe we would have won a game or two extra and hypothetically clinched the Commonwealth Bank Tri-series or maybe even the Asia Cup. The other question that needs answering is whether Lasith Malinga and Farveez Maharoof were one hundred percent fit when they engaged themselves in the latter part of the Australian tour and the entire Asia Cup. They were seen playing the matches as a team, but were well within themselves where exerting for that extra-yard was concerned. Once again we ask that if they were injured and tired, why Shaminda Eranga didn’t play. Was it because it was the selectors who chose Eranga and not the seniors?

When Sri Lanka played Bangladesh in that fateful game, it was evident head-to-head that Sri Lanka had the superior material. Nevertheless, the home team possessed grit and the will to win and that made the difference in the final outcome.

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