GAME PLAN: Crowe will stay immortal in the cricketing world

Jaideep Ghosh

martincrowe

File picture of former New Zealand skipper Martin Crowe

The cricketing world was shocked on Thursday morning by the news of the sad demise of New Zealand’s Martin David Crowe, one of the world’s best batsmen.

Crowe, 53, who has been diagnosed with cancer in 2011, breathed his last in Auckland on Thursday, bringing the curtain down on one of the greatest careers in cricket.

Since his debut in 1982, Crowe had been instrumental in making New Zealand cricket a viable, competitive side from the also-rans they had been before.

Crowe was skipper of the New Zealand World Cup squad in 1992 and his sensational use of Mark Greatbatch as pinch-hitter and off-spinner Dipak Patel as opening bowler bore fruit as the Kiwis made the semi-finals before going down to eventual champions Pakistan.

Crowe played 77 Tests and scored 17 centuries. He was at one time the highest scorer (299) for New Zealand before Brendon McCullum broke the triple-hundred mark a couple of years ago.

Crowe strode the cricketing world as a colossus, being named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1985.

He was inducted into the International Cricket Council (ICC) Hall of Fame in an emotional ceremony during the break in the 2015 World Cup match between New Zealand and Australia at Auckland, almost exactly a year ago, on February 28, 2015.

The entire cricketing fraternity has mourned his death.

Bangladesh blitz

There was a time when the Asia Cup’s utility as a really competitive contest was under intense scrutiny.

Dhaka :  Bangladesh’s captain Mashrafe Mortaza, right, and Mahmudullah celebrate after winning the Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket match against Pakistan in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Bangladesh won by five wickets. AP/ PTI

Dhaka : Bangladesh’s captain Mashrafe Mortaza, right, and Mahmudullah celebrate after winning the Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket match against Pakistan in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Bangladesh won by five wickets. AP/ PTI

In a calendar which is bursting at the seams, the Asia Cup was beginning to become an unnecessary imposition on the teams, as well as the countries hosting the tournament.

But the International Cricket Council, in a move that can be called refreshingly smart, decided to convert the tournament from a 50-over contest to a T20 format.

The T20 format was never quite the favourite of Bangladesh, as they lay below Afghanistan in the international rankings.

But the manner in which they decimated Pakistan in their league contest at Mirpur in Dhaka on Wednesday, it can be safely said that they will be a team to follow during the T20 World Cup.

It was quite sensational how the team combinations have changed. Bangladesh, not so long ago, used to be a slew of left-arm spinners bowling on broken or breaking dustbowls and trying to strangle the opposition.

Now, they go in with three, or even four fast bowlers and run through the opposition. Quite what happened with Pakistan.

It is indeed quite a sensational change, since Bangladesh were never considered to be a fast-bowling powerhouse.

But just having good bowlers is not enough, as was evident from Pakistan’s disastrous campaign. There is need to either create a total which is large enough for a challenge even for the strongest side, or chase down the total without panicking.

Panic was the most overpowering emotion in Bangladesh cricket not so long ago. Even in the last Asia Cup, with Pakistan needing close to 70 runs, Bangladesh panicked, as Shahid Afridi collared their bowling, taking his side to an improbable win.

Dhaka : Pakistan’s captain Shahid Afridi, center, walks back to the pavilion after his dismissal by Bangladesh’s Al–Amin Hossain during their Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket match in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. AP/PTI

Dhaka : Pakistan’s captain Shahid Afridi, center, walks back to the pavilion after his dismissal by Bangladesh’s Al–Amin Hossain during their Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket match in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. AP/PTI

Or maybe not that improbable.

On the other side of the spectrum is Pakistan. Gone are those days when one Afridi was enough for 11 Bangladeshis.

The irony is that Pakistan came into this Asia Cup with the most potent bowling. Mohammad Amir is back, and how! He was practically unplayable when Pakistan played India.

Then there is Mohammad Sami, who has been one of the best for Pakistan in such formats in days gone by.

But while the bowling was sensational, the batting was a disaster. Sadly, the batting played like they had a plane to catch, not just against India or Bangladesh, but also the United Arab Emirates. It was just lucky that the UAE boys are amateurs.

So the transition is fascinating. Bangladesh are no longer the whipping boys of the continent, or even the world of cricket.

At the same time, Pakistan is struggling. This is amazing, since in terms of their skill and talent, they could beat any side.

Possibly it was all in the mind, as it always has been with Pakistan over decades.

However, it is always fraught with danger to write off Pakistan. There will be several changes in the side, for sure, since there surely are players in the side who need to be shown the door.

Also, knee-jerk reactions are dime a dozen in the sub-continent. Every disaster is followed by screams for large-scale changes, bringing back players who have retired and axing everyone.

So there will be a new-look Pakistan side in the ICC T20 World Cup. But Bangladesh will surely not mend anything, since nothing is broken.

Makes for a fascinating contest. We’re all waiting for the action.