Kangaroos need to be wary of the Tigers

Ian Pont, a former bowling coach for Bangladesh, believes even Australia would find it difficult to crack the code in the tricky conditions of the South Asian nation ahead of the two-match Test series.

Bangladesh cricket has seen an upheaval in results and performances in recent times.   -  AP

Ian Pont is being honest when he says, if an overseas team goes on to beat Bangladesh at home, it knows something big has been achieved.

The fast bowling guru, who coached the South Asian side for quite a bit of time, starting from 2010, understands what Bangladesh has gone through to make itself formidable on home turf. From being another ‘promising side with not a great track record’, Bangladesh has gone on to become one of the forces to reckon with in international cricket.

And, speaking from experience, Pont knows even Australia would find it difficult to crack the code in the tricky conditions of Bangladesh. “It took them time to get the guys transform from the shorter format to the longer format, but Bangladesh has started doing well,” the former coach, who many feel laid the foundation for success, tells Sportstar.

As the Shakib al Hasan-led side gears up for its two-match Test series against a mighty Australia — startingSunday — Pont remembers those days of 2010, when Bangladesh lost 27 of its 29 ODIs. “That’s just before I took over. The morale was low, and it is a bit tough for a side that’s weak in the shorter format to hit back strong in the longer version,” he says. But slowly, things started changing and the Tigers — as the fans fondly call the team — won 10 of its ODI 14 games.

Ian Pont (L) with Shaiful Islam during his coaching stint with Bangladesh in 2011.   -  AFP

 

“Bangladesh was always decent enough in the spin department, but slowly it started believing that even it could produce good fast bowlers. Another thing it learnt was how to spend a long period of time at the crease. That improved the situation,” Pont explains.

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While pacers like Rubel Hossain and Taskin Ahmed made their presence felt, Mashrafe Mortaza too played a huge role in bringing about the change in Bangladesh cricket. “There was always talent, but Mashrafe played a key hand in building the unit,” Pont says.

Echoing his views, former Bangladesh captain Mohammad Ashraful too believes that the core team, comprising Mashrafe, Shakib and Mushfiqur Rahim, has been able to give Bangladesh that steadiness it always strived for. “When we started playing cricket, there was a lot of raw talent, but the performances were erratic and certainly not consistent. That is one area we had to improve on,” he says. The batsman, who went out of the scene following his ban due to involvement in match-fixing scandals, was considered one of the brightest batting talents. And speaking from experience, Ashraful believes that today’s junior cricketers are much better prepared when they make it to the side. “That’s the biggest benefit for Bangladesh cricket,” Ashraful says.

Both Pont and Ashraful have no hesitation in admitting that current coach Chandika Hathurasinghe has done a tremendous job in taking the side in the right direction. “It is difficult to coach Bangladesh, because the culture is different. You spend a lot of time making them understand that you are here to help them out. Hathurasinghe has done a great job. He has been able to blend things beautifully,” Pont says.

Perhaps, it reflects in the results. The last few years have been quite an experience for Bangladesh cricket as it went on to humble England, followed by a winning sojourn in Sri Lanka. The side also made it to the semifinals of the Champions Trophy.

Going by this trend, there is a feeling that Bangladesh will queer Australia's pitch. But Ashraful’s only worry remains the weather conditions. “Weather remains a big factor. It usually rains in this part of the world at this point of time. Apart from that, Bangladesh looks formidable,” the former captain says.

With rain lashing most parts of the country, Australia has called off its two-day warm-up game, and has even raised concerns whether there would be sunnier days ahead. But that hasn’t stopped Bangladesh from gearing up for the heavyweight series.

Former India bowler Sunil Joshi is Bangladesh's spin consultant. And Joshi, who has followed the cricketers closely, too believes that Australia would find it tough in Bangladesh conditions. “We still have a few days to prepare. The side has played really well in the last few seasons, and it will be a challenge for Australia to tackle it at home,” Joshi, who is set to join the side on Wednesday, points out.

For the last few months, the pay dispute in Cricket Australia had put the series in a spot, but now with the Australian team reaching Bangladesh for the series, it is time for some serious business.

Amidst rain, the Tigers would want to be on the prowl!