Let’s invest in potential

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But the fact that it was the first four balls of a World Cup match, in Pietermaritzburg of all places, made it quite remarkable.

The Bangladeshi changeroom resembled a Joburg four-way intersection during rush-hour. It was pandemonium.

As the resident dressing room attendant, I was the traffic officer manning the madness in the quaint confines of the Maritzburg Oval’s bowels. Sitting on the edge of that chaos was one Mashrafe Mortaza, a young seamer, who had shown enough potential to be drafted into the Bangladesh squad for experience.

Watching the madness, he would have been excused for thinking he was better off in Chittagong, bullying his peers in ignorant bliss.

But, there he was, quietly looking on, learning what he could from the failures that Bangladesh served up that month.

Even then, there were people saying the experiment of growing the game was futile, nothing but a bunch of mismatches that wasted everyone’s time. And yet, 12 years down the line, the Tigers were at another World Cup just recently, and how the tables had turned.

Mortaza, showing how shrewd that initial investment was, had grown to be captain, and those previously pitiful Tigers had already started sending shockwaves across the cricket world. They’ve kept at it, with wins over India and South Africa in ODI series.

Now, they are moving into the Test game, no longer content with being merely plucky passengers. They are after another prized scalp soon, and it will be no surprise when it happens.

It is a matter of time.

Time is all they needed, and theirs is a great lesson to those who still expect results overnight, even in the midst of wholesale changes.

The transformation processes that South African sport keep trying to get right have unrealistic goals, or are focusing on the wrong end of the project. You can’t be worried about how sweet the fruits will be when you haven’t bothered to ensure the ground you are planting in is fertile, and will be watered regularly.

As Bangladesh were plodding their way through one-sided, one-day series and Test humiliations across the world, their development programmes were quietly gathering momentum.

Suddenly, they have a clutch of fast bowlers, batsmen prepared to dig in and, of course, their obligatory fistful of finger spinners. Most of their senior squad came through the ranks of an Under-19 side that have not lost a series at home for nearly 10 years. Consider that for a second. Not once. Little, brittle Bangladesh…

And now, those dominant juniors are ready to step up and be counted on the ultimate stage. They all want to be the next big thing in cricket.

The unexpected heroes that emerged from the 2015 World Cup, from UAE to Bangladesh and Ireland, have all shown that investing in potential eventually brings its rewards.

Sadly, the same can’t always be said about South African systems, with politics always complicating the sensitive issue even further. But there is hope, especially when you see the delicate manner in which Kagiso Rabada has been handled.

Many would argue that, on current form, he should have played this second Test. You won’t hear a dissenting word from him, though.

He would have clapped harder than most when Dale Steyn reached 400 scalps this week.

Steyn, after all, is his hero. It’s almost like a petrol-headed teenager being plucked from his bedroom, full of posters of all his dream cars, and suddenly he’s in The Fast and the Furious, riding alongside Vin Diesel. He still occasionally pinches himself. But as he watches on and soaks it in, much like Mortaza 12 years ago, he knows his time in the driving seat will come soon.

The Sunday Independent

Original source: Let’s invest in potential

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