Silence required to relieve Bangladesh from ‘pressure’

Bangladesh have lost their 1st two matches in the Super 4 of the 2023 Asia CupACC

A former Bangladesh batsman had once said, he feels under pressure playing in televised matches. When the thought– everyone is watching me play– enters his mind while batting, he loses the plot. His feet stop moving and his bat stops working.

I was taken aback by what he said. Somehow I strung together a few words and said, “Then you shouldn’t play international cricket! Every international match is telecast live.”

But things have changed now. Not just international cricket, even 5-10 over matches from different corners of the world are telecast live. People of all ages from all over the world watch those matches. But no player has claimed that they feel under pressure because of that.

But listening to BCB selector Abdur Razzak at the team hotel Cinnamon Grand in Colombo on Monday, it felt as if the old days have come back in a new format. Apparently, what people write on Facebook, show on videos on YouTube, the criticism on mainstream media and criticism at any and every level is an obstacle to playing well for the cricketers and crushes them under a mountain of pressure. They are struggling to cope with the pressure and hence are surrendering on the field. And that’s why Mohammad Naim couldn’t even play a proper pull shot to a military medium pace bouncer from Dasun Shanaka.

Mohammad Naim made 21 off 46 balls against Sri Lanka before getting caught off Dasun Shanaka

I apologise for singling out one player. Because as Shakib Al Hasan had said after that match, there is no need to single out one player. Razzak also tried to say the same thing, implying the people are going after Naim for no reason. He said that, Naim is playing well, he is playing in the national team because he deserves it and he is being put under pressure with needless criticisms.

“Going after a player like this for no good reason… I’ve heard people say nonsense about him. But he hasn’t done anything for which he should be kicked out of the national team. His performance warranted him a place in the national team, that’s why he has been selected,” Razzak said.

I’m not saying that the media shouldn’t say anything. They definitely should. But if they speak within a limit, it would be better for the Bangladesh team and the sport.
Abdur Razzak, selector, Bangladesh Cricket Board

However, Razzak also accepted that so far Naim has failed to live up to their expectations, “Maybe he hasn’t yet performed as well as we had hoped for or he had hoped for. But that doesn’t mean he should be thrown out of the team.”

The selection committee must’ve had a plan when they named the team for the Asia Cup, which in Razzak’s eyes is the ‘best combination’. Razzak again accepted that the team has so far failed to play according to the plan. But he didn’t see it as too big of a problem because mistakes are bound to happen while playing. And every team in the tournament hopes to become the champion, but only one team succeeds.

However, the flak the Bangladesh team is getting has nothing to do about their championship aspirations. Bangladesh’s performances haven’t reached the level where there would be the scope for criticism of why Bangladesh couldn’t become the champion. Moreover, even though there is some regret over why Bangladesh couldn’t defeat Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the team is not being criticised for that either.

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Actually, a team dictates the limits to which you can criticise it. This Asia Cup, the main criticism the team is facing is its failure to cross the 200-run mark in two matches. Naim is also getting some flak. Other than that, has anyone really spoken excessively about anything else?

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Still, Razzak feels that such criticism are uninformed, “There will always be some criticism. You (media) are here to criticise and of course you will criticise. But if you understood what’s happening, you wouldn’t criticise. And if you are doing it without realising what’s happening, there is not much I could say about that.”

All in all, Razzak feels that the manner of criticism from the critics in Bangladesh is wrong. Why do people engage is such ‘excessive’ negative discussions when the cricketers underperform a little bit is beyond him, “After one bad match, it seems that the Bangladesh team has never achieved anything! I don’t know why this happens.”

BCB selector Abdur Razzak is with the team in Colombo

Razzak, however, also claimed that he isn’t against criticism but he wants the criticism to happen in a restrained manner, “I’m not saying that the media shouldn’t say anything. They definitely should. But if they speak within a limit, it would be better for the Bangladesh team and the sport.”

This means that for Bangladesh cricketers to play well without any pressure, complete silence is required. On top of that, they also require encouragement from everywhere. Whether they play well or poorly, the only way for them to not feel burdened by pressure is to keep encouraging them.

Razzak, however, got one thing right. Bangladesh is the only country where there is so much talk about stuff like who should be on the team, who should play in the XI, who will bat at which position, who should bowl with the new ball. Bangladesh cricket’s governing body BCB is also not free of this practice. All a journalist has to do is mention what they heard from a source, the top board members than give out information like what will be the XI, the batting order, bowling changes, which journalists from other countries wouldn’t be able to find out in a thousand years.

Razzak’s following statement is applicable for everyone, “Only in Bangladesh everyone thinks about who should open, who should bat at No.7, No.8, No.10. I haven’t seen this happen in any other place in the world. Wherever a team needs someone to play, the team will use him at that position. There is nothing to be discussed from the outside. This also puts the players under pressure.”

So, let’s all just stay quiet. Because, apparently, silence will relieve all the pressure.

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy