England wary of Whatmore magic
England vs Georgia or vs Bangladesh. Both smack of mismatches. Especially when the sports concerned are rugby union and cricket.india Updated: Nov 18, 2003 00:07 IST
England versus Georgia. England versus Bangladesh. Both smack of mismatches.
Especially when the sports concerned are rugby union and cricket. The English claim to have invented both.
Their awesome rugby team certainly have cause to be confident of a crushing victory in the World Cup opener against their amateur east European opponents in Perth on Sunday.
Cricket captain Michael Vaughan, however, was more cautious in predicting the outcome of his side's two-test series as they headed for Dhaka and Chittagong on Tuesday.
"Bangladesh in their last matches have scared a couple of good teams," Vaughan said. "We have to give them the utmost respect.
"We have to treat them like anyone else. We'll play in exactly the same manner."
Their hosts, until recently seen as whipping boys, appear to be finding some sort of foothold at last.
True, they remain firmly rooted at the bottom of the test championship table -- with no points -- as well as the one-day international rankings -- with no points.
True, they have lost 23 out of 24 tests (their one draw, against Zimbabwe, was caused by copious rain rather than runs). And they have not won in their last 44 one-dayers, an inglorious feat no other side has come close to matching.
But there have been glimmers of hope.
In their last four tests, in Australia and Pakistan and under the scrutiny of new coach Dav Whatmore, Bangladesh have scored a respectable 250-plus in five innings out of eight.
In Pakistan, they actually held a first-innings lead in two tests out of three. Their last defeat was by a single wicket, caused only by Inzamam-ul-Haq's face-saving century.
A five-day draw against England, let alone a victory, would be a major accomplishment.
Still short of firepower, it seems unlikely that they will be able to bowl England out twice in one match.
But standing up to Vaughan's inexperienced seam attack, shorn of the injured James Anderson and Andrew Flintoff and never at its best on unresponsive Asian wickets, appears much more realistic than it would have done even a few weeks ago.
The 49-year-old Whatmore is already used to working miracles.
In 1996, he coaxed Sri Lanka to an unlikely World Cup final victory over the mighty Australians.
Colombo-born and Australia-bred, Whatmore was never much more than a useful international player. But his ability as a coach is unquestioned.
His intelligent, almost paternalistic approach seems ideally tailored for Bangladesh. As against their most recent opponents, he will set them limited, confidence-building goals which will allow them to feel like winners even in defeat.
England may have dreamt up the game, but Whatmore helped reinvent its one-day format seven years ago, beating England handsomely in the quarter-finals on the way to the World Cup trophy. Reinventing Bangladesh's fortunes would seem almost as magical a trick.