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The Widening of Another Gulf
27 Mar 2006
By: George Roberts

Another Gulf Widens

Before the recent clash between Bangladesh and Kenya, many pundits highlighted the home side's recent troubles against their supposedly lesser African opposition, while many in Kenya still considered their team as good as the Tigers'. But what followed was either the collapse of a mini-era of some prolific Kenyan cricketers, or the widening of yet another gulf between nations.

For Bangladesh the progression over the past three years since a dismal 2003 World Cup campaign is enormous. There a disjointed batting lineup was shredded by a disciplined Kenyan bowling unit, while mammoths with the bat such as Ravindu Shah, Steve Tikolo and Maurice Odumbe constantly churned out the runs. Only Tikolo featured in the recent series, striking 99 runs in three innings. Odumbe, banned following match-fixing convictions, and Shah, injured, did not - and now it was the Kenyan side which appeared imbalanced. Tanmay Mishra, a 19-year-old right-hander, impressed, but is in no position yet to accept the burden of the middle-order lynchpin.

Likewise the bowlers appear to have reached the end of their tether, and fresher talent must be sought after. Martin Suji, no longer the reliable seamer he was, went wicketless in 22 expensive overs. Three years ago Collins Obuya destroyed a prolific Sri Lankan side in Nairobi, now the leg-spinner was consigned to just 31 ludicrously dear overs spread over four games. Kenya must rebuild: the settled side of the past decade is disintegrating, and if they are to compete at the next World Cup, new players will have to be blooded.

Not that Bangladesh played poorly. Coming off the back of a buoyant series against Sri Lanka, they now appear to have found the magic formula. In Javed Omar and Shahriar Nafees they now have a solid opening partnership, with Rajin Saleh worthy backup and a possible number three should the explosive Aftab Ahmed drop down the order. In that context, the series could prove to make Bangladesh a victim of their own success. Has Aftab Ahmed got the substance for a number three, given better bowling and trickier surfaces? Will Bangladesh's mix of accurate medium-pace and slow-left arm be quite so effective against more experienced batsmen in the wider ODI arena?

No-one can deny the importance for Bangladesh of these four back-to-back wins. The repeated criticisms of the past are fast fading and they have certainly established themselves over both Kenya and Zimbabwe. For a team on the rise, wins, no matter who the opposition is, are crucial. A consistent squad of enthusiastic players is gradually coming together, and another real scalp is on the horizon. The upcoming visit of the Australians gives them a chance to prove their true mettle, and while a series win is unthinkable, the odd upset is a distinct possibility. Remember Cardiff 2005, anyone?

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