Nafees calls the shots

BANGLADESH century-maker Shahriar Nafees celebrates with skipper Habibul Bashar.-PHOTO: R.V. MOORTHY

In a bout of lightweights, Bangladesh packed the heavier punch. A report by Vijay Lokapally.

The young Shahriar Nafees, a cricketer with tremendous promise and confidence that is infectious, provided the inspiration, cracking a century to help Bangladesh beat Zimbabwe in a Champions Trophy qualification match.

The match, though, was only of academic interest, as both teams had failed to make the tournament proper. Nafees had compiled a century earlier and with this he became only the first batsman from his country to hit two ODI hundreds, not to forget his Test century against Australia. "My aim was to give my best and I struggled initially because the ball was just not coming on to the bat. I like the ball to come on and had to make adjustments. It was not difficult once I read the situation," said Nafees.

There was praise for Nafees and the younger lot from coach Dav Whatmore, who has set off a transition period based on the smooth easing out of seniors: "It's not a criticism of the older guys. They have served the team well and done a lot for Bangladesh cricket. But the younger players seem to play with far less pressure than the seniors and that makes a lot of difference. The youngsters play for that particular day. They have the skill and a strong desire. They now have to show they have the calibre to do it against the bigger teams."

Nafees is studying Business Management and was adjudged the Bangladesh Player of The Year. The fact that he has come through the grind augurs well for a nation that has craved for talent. An attacking batsman, he has raised hopes for Bangladesh in times when it has struggled to carve out victories even against weak teams like Zimambwe. "Nafees has looked very compact and very sure of his batting. What I like about him is that he understands the responsibility and is willing to fight. This century was one of the best that I have seen and I am sure it is one of the many more we can look forward to from this young man," said Bangladesh skipper Habibul Bashar.

Zimbabwe was woefully out of depth in all departments and paid dearly for dropping Nafees early in the innings. The Bangladeshi paced his innings superbly, scoring his first fifty off 92 balls and then the next fifty off a mere 51. " I enjoyed the latter half because it allowed me to play my natural game," said Nafees, who was declared the `Man of the Match.'

The Scores

ICC Champions Trophy, Qualifying match, Bangladesh v Zimbabwe, Jaipur, October 13, 2006. Bangladesh won by 101 runs. Bangladesh 231 for six in 50 overs (S. Nafees 123 not out, S. Hasan 36, H. Bashar 30) bt Zimbabwe 130 in 44.4 overs (B. Taylor 52, E. Chigumbura 27, Hasan three for 18). <