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Thursday, August 05, 2004

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'Realistically we target 220-230'

A year into his job as chief national selector, Faruque Ahmed has conceded that the current crop of cricketers forming Bangladesh's one-day international squad are not ideally suited to take on the big boys.

But the situation is down to lack of resources rather than anything else believes the former Bangladesh captain.

Smarting from a pathetic showing by the side he chooses in the recently concluded Asia Cup in Sri Lanka, Faruque, whose selection committee completed it's first year this month acknowledged that most often they had to settle for what little was available to them in terms of talent.

"We picked the best available side under the circumstances for the Asia Cup. Unfortunately there is hardly any scope to bring major changes in the team considering the reserve strength," said Faruque while talking with The Daily Star Sport yesterday.

The 38-year-old, who ended his playing career only last season, thought the problem stemmed from a weak domestic structure which is not ideal for producing quality cricketers. It is also the reason for Bangladesh not having a formidable second string or an A team.

"Unless local competitions like the Dhaka Premier Division and the National Cricket League become more competitive, we will continue to struggle for back-ups. It is the responsibility of the authorities to come with a regular calendar of events. They must also think of a format that would ensure standard cricket. To do that, matches must be played on proper wickets and good grounds which is hardly the case at the moment.

"When we try to select the A side we struggle to complete the list as we don't get enough names who can push the national players. So we end up including cricketers from the national pool in the A team. We are looking at the High Performance Unit of the BCB to narrow the gap but I must insist again that without competitive domestic cricket we simply can not achieve anything," said Faruque.

On the performance of his selection committee so far, Faruque felt it has been a mixed bag.

"There has been ups and downs over the last 12 months. The boys showed definite signs of improving against Australia, Zimbabwe and the West Indies. But the Asia Cup came as a shock for me."

The present committee gave no less than 10 players their international debuts and Faruque revealed that with the exception of opening batsman Moniruzzaman and off-spinner Jamaluddin Babu, the others are still either in the side or in contention. But the selectors have been perplexed by chronic top order batting failure which is seriously hurting the Tigers especially in the limited overs matches. Faruque lamented the scenario in which they have been forced to pick bits and pieces allrounders to strengthen the batting while compromising with the bowling department and overall balance of the side.

"The continuous failure of batsmen has prompted us to experiment with a stop-gap bowling attack. But it has been very frustrating watching all our plans go in vain. There is no doubt about someone like (Alok) Kapali's talent but tell me what has he done in the recent past?" said Faruque.

"Besides, we can not give excuses of inexperience in ODIs after 93 games. After four years of Test cricket and a decade of one-dayers, you don't see much difference in the basic thinking of the cricketers. The real talents in the side should come out of the habit of playing 'satisfactory' 30s and 40s and start going for hundreds to show what they are made of," he added.

Despite the negative cloud, Faruque is sure that the current team had the ability to play much better cricket than they have displayed in Sri Lanka.

"I agree with coach Dav Whatmore that we underachieved in the competition. I also beg to differ with those who commented that we only showed improvement against weaker opponents like Zimbabwe and the West Indies. Mind you, it's not at all easy for any international side to take on the Windies on their home soil."

Faruque put his weight behind Whatmore.

"The team's bowling, fielding, fitness has improved a lot under his supervision. Dav is a very good motivator but at the end of the day, the individual has to sort out his own game."

The chief selector was straightforward when asked about the logic of sticking with a grafter like Rajin Saleh in ODIs, especially at an important position like number four.

"Let's face it. Realistically, we do not expect to post scores of 260 or 270 in the present context. Rather, we target in the 220 - 230 region. From that point of view Rajin is a very important player considering his ability to stay at the wicket after a quick loss."

Faruque was asked to comment on left-hander Faisal Hossain whose technique has been found wanting in the international arena despite his reputation as a heavy scorer in domestic cricket.

"It is too early to pass judgement on him as he has just played five matches. He is a stroke-maker which is an essential quality to have in the one-day game. However, the basics are very important too in any form of cricket."

Bangladesh skipper Habibul Bashar, a consistent run-maker in Tests, has not impressed Faruque in one-dayers.

"There is huge difference between his Test and one-day performance. He is a definite underachiever. He must improve his one-day game to justify his talent. It is for his own good that he does something about it because he is the captain and should try to lead by example."

Regarding questions being raised in a section of the media about Tigers' new Australian trainer Justine Cordy's tough fitness regime which some people believe hampered the players' performance in Sri Lanka as they were too tired, Faruque dismissed the suggestion.

"I don't buy that as a reason. I think Justine's method perfectly suits modern day cricket. Besides, no one should complain about hardship as I don't see too many players train in their own time apart from maybe a couple."

About his next course of action, Faruque said that he will be considering making at-least three changes in the team for next month's Champions Trophy to be held in England with a look to the future. Bangladesh have been pitted in a group along with the West Indies and South Africa in the tourney.

"I am not focusing too much on the Champions Trophy. I am more interested in finding the right blend for the hectic home season that is coming. I believe we will get a clear idea about our ideal combination after the three series' against New Zealand, Sri Lanka and India."

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