• Saturday, March 07, 2015


Team spirit: Not just a cliche

Naimul Karim

It is often said that cricket is a sport played in the head, with over 80 per cent of the game being a mental battle. For before every delivery factors like the pitch, the pace, the field, the swing, the spin, the timing, the tension, builds up in a player's mind. And if he is not in the right mode, he is likely to go home early.
One of the most important factors for keeping a cool head is to be part of a team that maintains a positive ambience. A calm team environment can work wonders and that's the reason why cricket, despite so many individual features, at the end of the day is a team game.
A brilliant individual performance no doubt can take a team ahead to a certain extent, however -- as was seen in the final of the ICC World T20 -- a champion team needs a united effort.
That Sri Lanka's first World Twenty20 win was a result of their side's all-round spirit can be observed by a glance at their scorecards. Apart from the semi-final, where Rangana Herath weaved his magic, the rest of them were won thanks to a group of players rather than an individual.
Players from the champion team are generally expected to remain in the top half of both the runs and wickets column, but in the recently concluded tournament Mahela Jayawardene was the only Sri Lankan among the top 15 run-scorers of the tournament. The wicket-takers column follows a similar trend with Nuwan Kulasakera the only Sri Lankan in the top-ten. It just goes to show how Sri Lanka's team effort took them through, even though they lacked standout performers.
What makes Sri Lanka's achievement a lot more special is that they had been going through a financial dispute with their board which even led to the possibility of a second-string side coming over to Bangladesh.
The cricket market is not as glamorous and sponsor-driven there as in Bangladesh. People don't mob around a Lasith Malinga or a Kumar Sangakkara in public and corporate companies will not necessarily target cricketers as their number one ambassadors. As a result, financial incentives outside the board may not always be that lucrative.

These factors could have been a burden for these players, but they just let their game do the talking.
Bangladesh's scenario has been completely different in almost every aspect, but it's been the lack of team spirit that has been the most visible and dumbfounding.
The team's ambience it seems has undergone a huge shift since their thumping series win over New Zealand last year. While there are no clear reasons behind the startling change, apart from the series of defeats, there were a couple of incidents that could have disfigured the winning spirit.
After the thrashing defeat to Sri Lanka in the first Test, coach Shane Jurgensen reckoned that all the talks going on about Bangladesh's Test status being in danger had affected the players mentally and thereby the balance of the team.
Tamim Iqbal, who was quickly made vice-captain before the tour, was not made captain for the T20 series after Mushfiqur Rahim was deemed unfit. It led to Tamim taking the odd decision of resigning from vice-captaincy.
Mushfiqur publicly criticised chief selector Faruque Ahmed for the 15 he had selected for the Asia Cup. An out-of-form Mahmudullah Riyad, was played throughout the Sri Lanka series, instead of an in-form Naeem Islam. Riyad was also played throughout the T20 World Cup.
It does not take a sporting pundit to realise that the above incidents might have played a part in eroding team spirit, which in turn affected each and every player's confidence.
Of all the incidents, it was Mushfiqur's reaction to the defeat to Sri Lanka after the third ODI when he stated that 'Bangladesh could even go down to Afghanistan', that was perhaps the biggest 'spirit-downer' of them all. There's not much a crew can do when the captain himself goes down.
After Bangladesh's debacle in the World Twenty20, the BCB immediately asked every level of the management to submit reports, and even hinted at possible changes. Whether they ring the changes or not, they have to find a way to bring back the team spirit lest they want to go through a similar embarrassment in Australia and New Zealand in 2015.  

Published: 12:00 am Wednesday, April 09, 2014

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