- Too many changes undesirable with just 10 months to go to WC 2015
- Acclimatisation to seaming and bouncy conditions imperative
- Fielding and fitness must be in focus
It is only natural that Bangladesh's recent debacle in the World Twenty20 is the freshest in public memory, but the truth is that the Tigers' downward turn in fortune has been in effect from the beginning of this year. The World Twenty20 was merely the full stop to a poorly constructed sentence, and as such has finally given way to a period of reflection following a frenzied three months of cricket.
While introspection is necessary, now is also the time for decisiveness and swift action because the Tigers' next big test, earlier described by skipper Mushfiqur Rahim as their toughest challenge, is the 2015 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand only ten months away.
Placed in Pool A Bangladesh face the challenge of playing both Australia and New Zealand in their own dens. They also have to deal with England in conditions that will suit the latter. And then there are the Sri Lankans who are already on a high following their brilliant campaign.
It goes without saying that New Zealand, whitewashed in Bangladesh last year, will be a completely different proposition in their backyard as they proved with their 4-0 series drubbing of India.
Any successful plan for such a major event has to be a long-term one and with ten months to go the Tigers have in a way bound the authorities' hands as far as personnel goes. So steep has been their sudden decline that a leadership group thought invulnerable only months ago now seems utterly shaky. Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hasan Papon's declaration after the World Twenty20 that he would not shy away from making major changes may sound good in theory but also runs the risk of severely destabilising the team at a highly inopportune time.
BCB must now make the best of a difficult situation and first work to restore confidence by working on the team's deficiencies -- that can be done by ensuring as much participation as possible in domestic competitions like the National Cricket League, which starts tomorrow -- and then help the players get as accustomed as possible to the conditions they will encounter.
Yes, a few changes might be in the offing. However, the current team has a number of talented players who have performed in the past and with a confidence boost can do so again in the future.
Within the given time frame any change cannot bring a drastic upturn for the batting and bowling, but help them go into the tournament with lots of runs, wickets and plenty of momentum.
Fielding and fitness -- an aspect of preparation closely intertwined with fielding performances -- are the only areas where a team can improve significantly in a relatively short period of time. There are some players who have come through a certain system that produces highly fit athletes but a majority of the others do not meet fitness standards. It is now high time that an environment be built within the national setup that imposes rigorous levels of fitness. That will have knock-on effects on batting and bowling as well, because greater fitness results in an ability to concentrate for longer periods. As far as the fielding goes, no measure should be overlooked to bring about change because Bangladesh's performances in this department have been a cry for help -- even if someone like Jonty Rhodes has to be brought in, the board must pursue the matter.
Bangladesh coach Shane Jurgensen earlier this year said that he wanted the board to send a team to Australia in September, right after Bangladesh's tour of the West Indies, to play a few pre-season games against some of the local sides in order to help them get used to the conditions.
While that no doubt will be an important proposal, another aspect that the board can look into is preparing some wickets in Bangladesh to simulate conditions in Australia and New Zealand. It can help improve Bangladesh's struggling pace department, which is expected to be the dominant force on seaming, bouncy tracks.
With so much to do and such little time, it is going to be a challenge for BCB's cricket operations committee, headed by Akram Khan, to formulate an appropriate structure.
While it may seem as though the players and the management have just come out of a rush of cricket, the ground reality is that the clock for the 2015 World Cup has already started ticking and every move that the BCB takes henceforth needs to be aimed at the mega event.