Pakistan's one-sided victory over Bangladesh in the first match of the tri-series was just not the kind of start the authorities would have liked. It was indeed disappointing for the home fans but then there were lessons to be learnt. I know Bangladesh made their Test debut in 2000 but cricket is a constant learning process.
Many vacant seats in the stadium did not give encouraging signals for the home team and one can well understand how dejected the fans must have been. Pakistan were a convincing winner and the difference between the teams only grew as the match progressed.
Of course, Bangladesh could take solace from the fact that leg-spinner Alok Kapali gave a decent account of himself. I like the confidence that Kapali brings to his job. He is a natural tweaker and loves to give the ball air. Now this is a quality that is fast diminishing in modern cricket and I thought it was a refreshing change to see a slow bowler take on the batsmen with some skillful stuff in a limited overs match. We know that Kapali is a talented cricketer and has a hat-trick in Tests but this performance should be special for the manner in which he got rid of Salman Butt, Mohammad Yousuf and Shahid Afridi, all wickets to be proud of.
Now that Pakistan have tasted early success, they will be confident of taking on an Indian team that is riding high on motivation. India will have a good platform now to test their strengths and weaknesses as they prepare for some tougher assignments ahead. To begin with, they would need to get past Pakistan on Tuesday.
The key here lies in adapting fast. The players would have to leave the Indian Premier League (IPL) behind and return to a different format that requires greater skills and endurance. Obviously Mahendra Singh Dhoni would have his strategies in place but the team has to look at consolidating its position.
The tri-series may not have captured the imagination of the cricket fans but it is important to have such competitions. The series would give Bangladesh an opportunity to assess their potential and there is not doubt that lot of work needs to be done. The empty seats at Dhaka must cause some worry for the authorities.
In my opinion, every series is important if a team wants to learn. It is not possible for India to just play Australia or South Africa all the while. Similarly, Bangladesh would also need a platform where they can test themselves against strong oppositions. I know most people would want to watch big teams with some big names but I have lot of time for Bangladesh. They are not minnows anymore and they cannot be just dismissed either. Cricket can be cruel at times, as India learnt at the last World Cup in the Caribbean, and Dhoni and his men could pay dearly if they take Bangladesh easy. Of course, they have to deal with Pakistan first.
Let the new-look Indian team grab the opportunity and make a strong statement. The youngsters would need to realise their responsibility and I expect Gautam Gambhir to show the way. He has expressed his keenness to play Test cricket regularly and this is the stage for him to demonstrate his intensity to achieve that goal.
Finally, I would take this opportunity to thank the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president, Mr. Sharad Pawar, for inviting us to a function on June 22 in New Delhi. It was nice to receive a letter from him for the function to celebrate 25 years of India winning the World Cup.
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