Whatmore looks beyond Habibul's humiliation

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Habibul Bashar, the captain of Bangladesh, had suffered enough when he appeared at a press conference after the completion of his side's humiliation at Lord's.

Habibul Bashar, the captain of Bangladesh, had suffered enough when he appeared at a press conference after the completion of his side's humiliation at Lord's.

He had had a frightful game himself, out for three and 16, hooking both times. It is said to be one of his strongest shots, but not here, not now. When Habibul faced his inquisitors after the end of play yesterday, he looked a haunted and dejected figure.

Replying to questions from English reporters, Habibul mumbled and no one was heartless enough to ask him to speak up. Later he spoke to Bangladeshi reporters, and their reports told of a man coming to terms with a catastrophe. Asked to rate this huge defeat among his disappointments, he replied unequivocally. It is No 1.

He said that, in his nation's first game at Lord's, the team wanted to play well enough to take away good memories. The failure to do so had been abject: "I'm really unhappy with myself. We didn't do anything well at all," he said. It will be of absolutely no comfort to Habibul to learn that his embarrassment is nothing new in early-season Tests at Lord's. Zimbabwe had a similar experience on their debut at the ground.

The English spring intensifies the gap between the hosts and their guests. Pakistan found the swinging ball at Lord's in May an obstacle too far and only Sri Lanka have coped at this time recently.

These have been painful days for the advocates of the ICC's expansion policy. Most British newspapers have been brutally unsympathetic.

Dav Whatmore, Bangla-desh's coach, is Australian by upbringing and accent, Sri Lankan by extraction, and has become the spokesman for Bangladeshi cricket; fluent, sympathetic but not unrealistic. He emphasises the significance of playing at Lord's. He defines this as "the thinking part" of playing Test cricket. "There's something in the players you can't see but you can feel."

Their hosts at MCC gave them dinner earlier in the week and they spoke of the importance of enjoying the experience. This is easier said than done when England take advantage of some moisture in the pitch on the first day and bat imperiously on the second.

Bangladesh were in awe of England's reputation before this Test, and their confidence will not be helped by Michael Vaughan's mood. The Engand captain said yesterday that he wants to hit them hard again in the Second Test in Durham on Friday.

"They are bound to have a few scars," he said. Whatmore cannot deny that their confidence has taken a knock. Vaughan used a cute phrase to describe concentration yesterday: "You can quite easily lose your bubble," he said.

Habibul and his colleagues have yet to discover theirs. Their hearts and minds seemed to desert them at Lord's, but Whatmore derides any suggestion that the team should be turned out of the ICC's Test programme.

"To try to achieve what everyone wants to achieve is tough, but to take Bangladesh out of full status now is folly. If you step back, you can see that our cricket will evolve in time. The effect of wider domestic competition is beginning to show. There's huge potential in the country. I know it's painful for them now, but it will get better."

The press box will talk about farce, and the money men will worry about selling tickets for Bangladeshi Tests after day two, but the administrators of Test cricket sympathise with Bangladesh's development programme, and they run the game.

Habibul Bashar is 32 and this will probably be his first and last Lord's Test, but others will be back. Perhaps their techniques and their heads will be in better condition. The audience, whose day's cricket ended at 11.50am, will be hoping so.