The Financial Express

Did Bangladesh revolutionise modern cricket?

| Updated: November 19, 2020 16:40:25

Photo courtesy: ICC Photo courtesy: ICC

As silly as it looks at first, you may find it quite amusing how Bangladesh played an interesting role in revolutionising modern cricket. How?

Last year the world witnessed one of the most fascinating world cup finals in history. You can stretch a bit, even call it the greatest one-day international (ODI) match of all time, and still you may find quite a number of people seconding your views.

Will this author be right to point out that both the finalists wouldn’t have been there, in case there weren’t any ‘Bangladesh mishap’ in the first place?

The answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Let’s dive deeper.

Scenario 1: The Corridor of Uncertainty!

It need not mention that Bangladesh were a better team in ODIs. Although Bangladesh were considered to be a ‘minnow’ inside an ocean, things started changing after the Cardiff match, where Mohammad Ashraful shined in his brightest colours against the mighty Aussies. But, well, it might be a fluke to the rest of the world. It is still considered to be one of the biggest upsets in ODI cricket history. So, the world didn’t change a bit after the match. But people started taking Bangladesh a bit more seriously than before.

Then the 2007 world cup was held. Bangladesh stunned the world by registering a 5-wicket-win in the first game, which eventually led to the elimination of India from the world cup. The shock was a tremendous wake-up call for India. After the match, the cricket in India was rebuilt from the scratch to reclaim the glory, and India went up to win the next world cup in 2011. Ironically, Bangladesh beating India changed the world cricket a lot more than it changed Bangladesh themselves.

Scenario 2: Death, or Glory!

The last time New Zealand toured Bangladesh in 2008, Bangladesh were devastated after their players’ exodus to ICL. The loss could have taken a toll on the team’s overall performance. But from the first ball of that series, Bangladesh showed their enormous resilient mentality. Bangladesh managed to win the first ODI, showing their flying colours against the ‘Black Caps’ for the first time. It was a significant victory for the hosts given the circumstances prior to the series, although the rest of the series didn’t imitate the fairytale. Bangladesh eventually lost the ODI and Test series.

Bangladesh hosted New Zealand again in 2010. The world cup was knocking at the door, and New Zealand just started preparing themselves for the subcontinental challenge. And, what a surprise they received from ‘The Tigers’!

Tamim Iqbal was out of the equation already due to injury issues, and the first over of the New Zealand innings ruled out captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza as well. Yet, once again the Bangladeshi resilience took the cake — Bangladesh welcomed them with a scintillating knock-down by 9 runs (D/L method) in Mirpur.  And afterwards, the horror followed the black caps and they lost four of the five matches in that series.

New Zealand Coach Mark Greatbatch was absolutely disgusted with the performance. He mentioned that it was ‘inexcusable’ to lose an ODI series 4-0 against Bangladesh. Greatbatch also said, “It could be the best or the worst thing that could happen.”

New Zealand claimed they underestimated the opponents and came underprepared in 2010. Hence, before the 2013 Bangladesh tour, they undertook a training camp in Sri Lanka. However, it made absolutely zero difference to the series result. Despite the absence of Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh seized the 3-match ODI series 3-0.

After the Banglawash 2.0, the Black Caps realised that they’d come to the edge, and it was obligatory that they should cope up with modern cricket from a different angle. Veteran Brendon McCullum took up the challenge and led from the front. New Zealand were one of the finalists in both 2015 and 2019 world cup.

Scenario 3: The Stolen Pride of ‘The Lions’

Stuart Broad uttered at the start of January, “We would have to have an absolute stinker not to make the quarter-finals.”

England was rattled before the must-win match against Bangladesh in the Cricket World Cup 2015. The equation was pretty straightforward; their campaign would be alive if they beat the tigers.

Despite the 21-2 record across all the formats, England had to worry a bit. Bangladesh won two of their previous three ODIs against England. So, given the situation, it was a high-voltage game already, and both the teams were pumped for the match.

Thanks to 103 from Mahmudullah, and Mushfiqur Rahim's 89, Bangladesh had posted 275 for 7. Set 276 to win, England failed drastically to show the intent. Not even could Jos Buttler's 52-ball 65 save them, as Bangladesh earned their one of the greatest days in cricket history. Turned out, Stuart broad was spot on, it was an absolute stinker after all.

Shane Warne tweeted after the match, “England had the wrong team, the wrong style of play & everyone could see it, tonight's result not a shock.”

The Aftermath: India

After the Cricket World Cup 2007 debacle, everything in India had come to a standstill. It was a nightmare with open eyes, a chaos of the highest order. Indian Cricket needed a magical touch to get their fans back. And they found their ‘magician’ in September of that year.

T20 Cricket was the newest format back then, and BCCI was reluctant towards it. So, when the decision of the inaugural World Twenty 20 was taken, BCCI couldn’t care less about it. BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah said, “T20? Why not ten-ten or five-five or one-one?” Presumably, they opted out their legendary veterans (Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, and Rahul Dravid) from the squad, and announced their new captain: Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

In spite of a bumpy kickstart, there was something refreshingly unusual about the young side. They attacked, they counter-attacked, and, led by a skipper who was least bothered about the fear of losing, they never gave up. India won the inaugural World Twenty 20 by defeating Pakistan in the finals, and the revolution unfolded.

Dhoni realised they needed something new, a complete transformation towards the evolving modern cricket. The new skipper focused on the process rather than an eventual result, and cut off some of the ‘big guns’ from the team.

But the changes in the national team just were not enough. IPL was a great boost for sure, but that could never bring up quality cricketers from the root level. Hence, BCCI decided to focus solely on the root levels. From the school cricket to Ranji Trophy, they modified their whole cricket structure brick-by-brick. They engaged their best cricket brains with the cricket control and planning, and concentrated on long-term success. They were already leading from the front as far as business is concerned, but they wanted the trophy more than anything; not only to rule the world, but also to devote a proper tribute to the ‘master blaster’ Sachin Tendulkar. Needless to say, ‘Team India’ have risen to such an extent that any team can envy them.

The Aftermath: New Zealand

After the Bangladesh Tour of New Zealand in 2010, NZC decided to sack their coach Mark Greatbatch, and change the support staff radically. They appointed John Wright as the head coach, skipper Daniel Vettori lost his position as a selector, the role of performance director Roger Mortimer had been reduced, fielding coach Mark O'Donnell and bowling coach Shane Jurgensen had been axed. Even the team's long-time physiotherapist had been replaced.

In the year 2011, they appointed John Buchanan as NZC Director of Cricket. They undertook a Performance Improvement Programme (PIP), where they started working on a clear and consistent coaching philosophy. The training programme was stated as ‘unique and visionary training methodology’, which included five key areas: coaching and mentoring, effective leadership, aligning teams, personal development, and organisational development.

After the Bangladesh series disaster, New Zealand solely focused on the culture and values over anything else. The PIP programme started the NZC evolution by analysing the current culture of the team, creating a desired vision and developing desired behaviour within the team. It also involved peer performance assessment, and how culture and values affected the individual performance of the cricketers and coaches.

The result did not come right away, but it definitely worked out just fine. If you don’t count on the words, just have a look at the finals of the last two world cups. Not only were they one of the finalists, they could have won any of the two if their luck favoured just a bit more.

The Aftermath: England

“England lost.” - Well, not a shock. After all, cricket is just a game, any team can win on a given day.

“England lost to Bangladesh.” - Duh, happened before. Nothing extraordinary there.

Then what exactly happened, when England lost to Bangladesh in the World cup 2015? What was so special about that match?

Well, first of all, let’s get the phrasing correct. The English media was shaken up with the phrase, “The Tigers knocked England out of the World Cup.” They weren’t quite ready to get punched on the face, at least not on such a big stage. Maybe they just were not ready to slip out of the tournament at such an early stage. But above all, the English media found the disgrace in the way they played.

That could have been the end of Eoin Morgan’s career. England had just bombed in the World Cup under Morgan, hence he could have lost the skipper role immediately. But the newly appointed Director of Cricket for the England and Wales Cricket Board Sir Andrew Strauss planned otherwise.

Diversity was always one of the key strengths for England, and Eoin Morgan was one of the finest players in the team. Andrew did not want to cut him off just because of a bad tournament. Rather, he looked beneath the surface. Andrew sacked Peter Moores, because he felt that in some areas of international cricket he was a little bit exposed around tactics and strategy. The world cup was proof of his tactical failure, although he was quite popular within the dressing room.

Andrew Strauss offered Eoin Morgan to captain England in all white-ball cricket. Before considering the proposal, Morgan asked for an aggressive, no-fear approach from ECB to hit the apex.  Strauss agreed without any hesitation. And, thus started the complete transition of English Cricket, from a classic traditional defensive approach to the no-nonsense explosive cricket.

After the appointment of Morgan, Strauss revealed Bayliss to be England’s new coach. Before this announcement, according to the English media, Jason Gillespie was the most probable candidate for the job. But Strauss had his eyes on Bayliss all along. His decision reflected the new emphasis upon white-ball cricket. The right pieces for the jigsaw had been assembled.

Afterwards, they assembled the best possible team to serve the purpose. They already had one of the best cricket structures in place, hence that wasn’t the hard part at all. They got rid of the superstitions regarding the ‘specialist cricketers’, and inclined to the ‘bits and pieces’ kind of cricketers. They looked for the Achilles heel, they found the cure and reached the top of the world.

And… Bangladesh

This article started with such an absurd ground that all these information had to be brought into light. Did Bangladesh change the visions of these teams? Did Bangladesh help these teams to climb up the mountain in any way? Did Bangladesh improve to an extent they were supposed to?

Irrespective of your answers, let’s agree on the fact that Bangladesh played a catalytic role in all of these cases. Had Bangladesh not defeated any of these teams in the given matches (or series), who knows how cricket would turn out to be!

So, yes, Bangladesh clearly played as a positive catalyst in the modern cricket revolution. But did Bangladesh revolutionise modern cricket? Well, that will be a stretched conclusion. Let’s hope, Bangladesh find their way up to the top soon in the near future. Rest assured, we will definitely get to see some tremendous cricket thrillers then.

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