Time to choose a long-term captain | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 29, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:33 AM, November 29, 2019

Time to choose a long-term captain

The current problem in Bangladesh cricket is a multifaceted one. The national team’s struggle to reach a desired international level especially in Test cricket, a lack of foresight in planning towards future targets, alleged corruption in lower-tier cricket are just a few of the problems.

These multifaceted problems must be viewed from a systemic perspective.

Finding new leadership for the national team is itself another multifaceted problem that requires a proportional response from the country’s cricket authorities.

All effective cricket teams need a good leader and we need not go far for an example in this regard -- the influence of Mashrafe Bin Mortaza in the formation of a spirited team is good enough to understand the value of a good captain.

Unfortunately, like many other issues the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has so far shown hardly any signs of dealing with this very vital issue with any proficiency. From an as yet undecided stance regarding Mashrafe’s future to the bizarre appointment of Mominul Haque as Test captain for a challenging series in India, there seem to be no clarity in thought process.

There is a lot of emotion attached to the name of Mashrafe. He is a true icon of Bangladesh cricket but the inspirational Bangladesh ODI captain’s underwhelming performances in the 2019 World Cup in England and fitness issues have provided enough evidence for the country’s cricket authorities to decide on their next course of action if they really want to set their eyes on the next World Cup.

The BCB can in no way take their sweet time to make up their minds or wait for the final word from Mashrafe if they are not convinced that Mashrafe, at 36, is still good enough to provide his services as ODI skipper for a considerable time.          

If leading by example on the field is the main criterion for a good captain, then Shakib Al Hasan is the only choice across the formats but questions remain about how willing Shakib is to build a team for the future. The other concern is that players like Shakib and Tamim Iqbal may not be available all the time because after already long national careers, it would not be surprising if their body betrays them from time to time. It is not unlikely that they would seek a break sometimes, which would not be an illogical demand. So, Shakib’s return from his ban will not provide a permanent solution to the crisis.

Can BCB try a new and young face? Here probably lies the big problem surrounding the Bangladesh cricket team. It is very tough to pick a captain from a young bunch of cricketers, most of whose place in the team is not permanent. The Soumya Sarkar-Sabbir Rahman generation has failed to live up to expectations and it has actually created a big fault line in the national team and that is why former Bangladesh captain Gazi Ashraf Hossain said: “The biggest problem of Bangladesh cricket is the lack of good performers in the team. When most of the young players are struggling to secure their places in the team, how can you consider them for the much bigger role of captaincy?”

Then are stopgap solutions the only way forward for the board?

“No. It is true that at this moment the board does not have many options, but they still have to look forward and in my opinion they need to pick an experienced player [as captain] as young players are not performing. And if we find any potential in a young player who can lead the team in the future, then it is the right time to tag him as a deputy. Stopgap is not a solution; we have to look at the coming big events and a captain should be given enough time to establish his command in the team. You can’t judge someone’s ability as captain by giving him the job for one or two series,” Ashraf explained, adding that it is an issue that requires serious attention from the board.

Another former skipper, Faruque Ahmed, also batted in favour of an experienced campaigner. “The role of captain is very big in cricket to shape a good team and it seems to me that like many other issues the board is suffering from indecision. I am not sure what convinced the board high-ups when they picked the new captain. But it is an area where the board should give utmost priority,” said Faruque, also a former chief selector.

“I don’t think at this moment that there is any young player with whom the board can gamble for the long term. On the other hand, Shakib was in and out of the captaincy role even before [his last stint] and they also tried with Tamim as a stopgap solution. In my opinion, the board has hardly any choice other than giving Mahmudullah Riyad an opportunity. Yes, you can raise questions about his Test credentials but so far what I have seen in him is that he is capable but he would need a long-term assurance to establish his authority on the side. You see, South Africa once picked up young Graeme Smith as captain, even though there were many senior players. But unfortunately, we don’t have one such to rely upon,” said Faruque.

True, things are not easy for the Nazmul Hassan-led board as they have a lack of resources and options, but it is undoubtedly high time for them to mix some boldness with prudency, keeping in mind the ongoing World Test Championship, the T20 World Cup in October next year, the 2023 50-over World Cup and generally for the future of the Test team. The need of the hour is to engage the right people to take the right decisions in this regard.    

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