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Let this not be another false dawn

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994   //    25 Mar 2012, 22:57 IST

So near, yet so far. After causing two major upsets by defeating World Cup finalists India and Sri Lanka, Bangladesh came within three runs of defeating Pakistan to become Asia Cup Champions. It left the tigers in tears but as the reports said, Pakistan might have won the Asia Cup and Bangladesh won all the hearts.

They were supposed to be the minnows but turned out to be the best side on display. A side that believed in itself and was not overawed by its opponents’ bigger reputation. Instead of one-off brilliance, Bangladesh showed great team cohesion throughout the championship. While some might argue that the Indian and Sri Lankan teams were fatigued and looked a jaded lot after long overseas tours, there was no denying that the spirit shown by the hosts was special.

There were many whose performances stood out in the series. Skipper Musfiqur Rahim is still young at the international circuit but he handled the team brilliantly. While left handed opener Tamim Iqbal showed maturity with his controlled aggression and ended up with four half centuries in as many games, all rounder Shakib Al Hasan lived up to the reputation of a world class all rounder very well. The find of the tournament was certainly young Nasir Hossain. He was not only sensible with the bat, but also bowled some crucial spells for his side. Many believe it is the inaugural Bangladesh Premier League(BPL) that allowed the young Bangladeshi players to rub shoulders with some of the leading names in world cricket and gain valuable experience. Some of the close matches made them stronger mentally and required rates of over eight an over were no longer intimidating.

But to rest on the current accolades will be suicidal. From here on, Bangladeshi cricket should look to build on the success and scale greater heights. There have been many such one off victories but the side has struggled to replicate the success frequently. The focus should now shift to doing well in the longer version of the game and outside the Indian subcontinent.

As evident from the filled stadiums, bringing masses to the game will not be a problem. Despite being the whipping boys in international cricket for over a decade, there was no dearth of support for the national cricket team. Even the big political players and business honchos have shown interest and patronized the game.

This is where the Bangladesh Cricket Board(BCB) should step in and make sure that things at the ground level stay firm. While the success of BPL was tremendous, they mustn’t get carried away and overdo the twenty20 version. The board must see to it that the domestic four day matches are competitive and should remain the top priority for the upcoming cricketers. They must realize that only if test cricket is in top health, the country will produce world class cricketers.

Most of Bangladesh’s success has come at their home soil and they have struggled in seam friendly conditions. BCB can also sent some of their top players to play in the English county during the off season where they will be exposed to different challenges and gain experience in alien conditions. It is time BCB pressed the ICC and other cricketing boards around the world to have more away tours for Bangladesh on the Future Tour Programs. The appointment of the vastly experienced Stuart Law is already starting to show positive signs and the Aussie should be given a long rein to make effective changes.

And finally the BCB should also take care that the game remains clean in the country. There were unconfirmed reports about spot fixing in the recently concluded BPL and if any cricketer is proved to be involved in any such activities, he should be dealt with strictly. It should also look to educate its players and make sure that they don’t lose precious talent to the lure of easy money.

Asian cricket is going through a rough patch at the moment. While one team is going through a transition period, another board cannot pay it players and the third can’t play cricket in their own country. In such a gloomy scenario, the rise of Bangladesh comes as a much needed relief to world cricket.

Instead of another false dawn, let this be the coming of age of Bangladesh cricket.

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