ICC World Cup 2023: BCB could have handled Tamim Iqbal issue better, says former Bangladesh skipper Ashraful

In a chat with Sportstar, former Bangladesh captain Mohammad Ashraful spoke about the state of Bangladesh cricket and what needs to be done to change the mindset.

Published : Oct 22, 2023 13:11 IST - 6 MINS READ

Former Bangladesh skipper Mohammad Ashraful at the Wankhede Stadium to witness the ODI World Cup 2023 match between England and South Africa.
Former Bangladesh skipper Mohammad Ashraful at the Wankhede Stadium to witness the ODI World Cup 2023 match between England and South Africa. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Former Bangladesh skipper Mohammad Ashraful at the Wankhede Stadium to witness the ODI World Cup 2023 match between England and South Africa. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Not many noticed Mohammad Ashraful at the Wankhede Stadium press box on Saturday afternoon. But the former Bangladesh captain, who is currently in India as a commentator for a Bengali sports outlet, enjoyed each and every moment of the South Africa vs England World Cup fixture.

Back in 2009, Ashraful was in Mumbai for a week-long training session with the Mumbai Indians before flying out to South Africa for the IPL. “It feels so good to be back,” he said with a smile.

While watching Heinrich Klaasen dominate the afternoon, scoring his fourth ODI century, Ashraful believed that Bangladesh lacked ‘such an approach’. In a chat with Sportstar, he spoke about the state of Bangladesh cricket and what needs to be done to change the mindset.

Q) Before the World Cup got underway, expectations were sky-high from Bangladesh. But so far, the side has struggled. What, do you think, is the reason?

A) I will be honest, we have not been able to go the way we should have ideally gone after the 2007 World Cup. However, since we managed to win quite a few games in the last few editions of the tournament and looked to be on the right path, the expectations were high this time around. Everyone in Bangladesh believed that the team had enough in its arsenal to fare well in the ODI World Cup.

Things, however, went haywire over the last three months with so many turns of events - from Tamim’s injury to him announcing retirement, making a comeback and Shakib taking over again. And those changes in such a short time seems to have affected the entire process.

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Q) Barely a week before the team left for India, high drama unfolded in Bangladesh cricket surrounding Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal. Do you think that it could have been handled better by the BCB, ahead of a big-ticket tournament?

A) Definitely. The BCB could have handled it better by making both of them sit together and iron out the issues. Tamim is such a senior player and until three months ago, we were faring well in ODIs under his captaincy. We won the series in South Africa (in March, 2022) and beat quite a few big teams - including India - so we were in a good shape.

In 2019, even though we finished eighth, we displayed some quality cricket with Shakib at his best. It was an excellent performance. But I must also point out that for a country to grow at the highest level, you need some sort of cricketing structure, which is yet to be developed in Bangladesh. Despite earning Test status 23 years ago, we still haven’t been able to improve our grassroots programmes and those areas need immediate attention.

Q) What are the areas that need attention?

A) The approach needs to change. I think currently, we are not thinking on a long-term basis and just taking it series by series. When you look at ICC events, teams scoring 300-350-plus scores have become the norm and we often struggle. The reason is, back home, the wickets in Mirpur don’t allow batters to play their shots and even in T20s, 130-140 are considered competitive totals, so when you play in those conditions and then feature in the highest level, you often struggle to play your shots. Hence, we hardly find our team score 300-plus runs and they mostly hover around 270s.

Look at England. After their defeat against us in the 2015 World Cup, they completely changed their game in all formats, and the results are showing. We, somehow, have failed to take a similar approach and going forward, we must work on these areas.

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Q) Realistically speaking, can Bangladesh actually go on to win an ICC title in the next few years?

A) No. As fans, we will always expect our team to win titles, but then, you need to look at things with a perspective. Even teams like Zimbabwe or The Netherlands would hope to win a few games, so that’s not the point. The point is, whether we have that bandwidth to clinch big titles? While we have improved quite a bit, the others, too, have upped their game. Look at India’s bench strength and the supply line! Unfortunately, we have not been able to create that backup line in Bangladesh and that’s why if a Shakib or a Tamim is out of action, we struggle to find their like-for-like replacement. That shows that we are still not there.

We can always dream of becoming a world champion, but for that to happen, you need to have the infrastructure ready. In 1996, when Sri Lanka won the World Cup, it had nothing, but in today’s time, when things have changed immensely, you can’t think of winning championships if you don’t have the right infrastructure.

Q) Is the mindset hurting the players?

A) When we started our careers, Bangladesh was a new Test nation. But now, we have played 100-plus Tests, and one would expect the youngsters to come and dominate the scene consistently. I think we are falling behind in terms of technique, mindset. Back in our times, we played with the legends despite having limited resources, but now these guys have overseas coaches and other facilities, but even then, results are not quite satisfying. So, one needs to sit back and find out what’s going wrong.

Q) The BCB has roped in some of the top international coaches, but even then, the results have not been satisfying. Why so?

A) We have Rangana Herath as a spin coach for a while now and his credentials are incredible. But even then, we have not been able to produce a quality spinner who could have an impact like a Mitchell Santner. But sadly, our spinners haven’t been able to prove their standard beyond those rank-turners in Mirpur. The problem is, we should have had these star coaches at the grassroots level - something that India had done earlier by hiring Rahul Dravid for India U-19 or A teams. But here what happens is, you get stars like Herath or Allan Donald but fail to reap benefits. Grassroots is the key and that’s one area we desperately need to develop, otherwise getting superstar foreign coaches won’t help. The national coaches need to spend more time watching domestic cricket so that they can have an idea about the talent available and can plan the road ahead accordingly.

Q) Post World Cup, there could be a transition. How does the future hold for Bangladesh?

A) We have players like Litton, Miraz, Shanto - who have time and again stamped their class. So, we need to have faith in them and give them a long rope. While playing local cricket, I have seen quite a few fast bowlers who can bowl at 140kmph. So, we need to tap into those talents, groom them well.

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