Evoking poor response

The absence of star players from India only made a mockery of the game and Stuart Binny alone had reasons to remember the otherwise most forgettable series, writes Vijay Lokapally.

The series was as good as played in-camera. There was little interest in the three-match limited overs series between India and Bangladesh and the reasons were many. The Indian team lacked star value with the exception of Suresh Raina, who was appointed the captain. Bangladesh was a struggling combination and was suffering from utter lack of motivation. The sparsely-occupied galleries, the onerous task of finding a broadcaster, the absence of a sponsor and the overall disinterest displayed by the fans put the series in perspective.

A trip to Bangladesh is often seen as a platform to groom a few youngsters. There has not been an exception to this aspect of cricket in Bangladesh. True, the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid had grabbed the opportunity to travel to Bangladesh for Tests but mostly the cricket exchanges between the two countries have suffered on account of a lack of competitive flavour. The latest series was hardly any different even though Raina went on record to acknowledge the performance of his team.

He reflected on India’s 2-0 win (the third match was washed out) with pride. “I am very happy with the side, especially Stuart Binny, who bowled really well alongside Mohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav. We played good cricket, especially when you know World Cup is coming up, a lot of youngsters showed character.”

The World Cup is scheduled for early next year but Raina was spot on. This could help someone like Binny to stake his claims well ahead of the tournament in Australia.

Binny justified his inclusion with a dream show in the second match. India was shot out cheaply but Binny hit back by claiming six wickets. His six for four in 4.4 overs left Bangladesh deeply embarrassed. In the process, Binny improved on the earlier best that Anil Kumble had set in the Hero Cup final in 1993. Kumble had taken six for 12 against the West Indies on a wonderful night at the Eden Gardens. Of course, Kumble’s spell had come against a much stronger batting line-up.

Binny emerged the ‘Man of the Series’ and profusely thanked Raina. “I must thank my team and Suresh for giving me this opportunity, and I took it. The pitch (when he took six wickets) wasn’t too good to bat on, but we came here as a young side and proved ourselves.” It was a young side no doubt but how much would the experience help may only be known in the future.

Given the standard of the opposition, one would not read much into India’s success. The performance must be evaluated keeping in mind the fact that Bangladesh has hardly offered any resistance to stronger teams. The upset win it registered in the 2007 World Cup, when it eliminated India from the competition, remains one of the few highlights of Bangladesh’s cricket but overall it has only made up the numbers.

The second match of the series, in Mirpur, had the dubious distinction of recording the lowest match aggregate (163 runs) when all 20 wickets had fallen. It was not an ideal pitch for a one-day match and the result only underlined the difference between the two teams. India made 105 and Bangladesh responded with a poor 58.

Binny summed it up well. “The plan was to come out hard, the wicket was doing a bit, we just wanted to put pressure on them by not bowling boundary balls. We started believing as soon as we got a couple of wickets. At the break, we just spoke of bowling in good areas and coming hard at them. I’d love to bowl on this wicket every day.” Bangladesh skipper Mushfiqur Rahim responded, “The way our batsmen played embarrassed the country in front of the whole world.”

This was not the best advertisement for quality cricket. It clearly was an overdose of cricket and evoked a poor response from cricket fans too. If the cricket lovers in Bangladesh felt cheated, they had a point. The absence of star players from India only made a mockery of the game and Binny alone had reasons to remember the otherwise most forgettable series.