The Bangla resurgence
Perhaps in no part of the cricketing world, the passion for the game hits the roof, as it does in the sub-continent.
In a recent column of his, Sourav Ganguly referred to how India always got crowd backing wherever they played in the world because of the sheer passion with which Indians follow the game.
But, in certain cases, that can go beyond a certain point and in the last few years, that has been seen in the fan base of Bangladesh cricket, where supporters have touched to the point of cringe-worthy as far as reactions to their team’s performance has been concerned.
Which brings us to the performance on the field itself and in particular the World Cup of 2019.
Bangladesh arrived in England with perhaps their most experienced side that they had ever assembled for a major tournament.
Here were a group of players, who carried a lot of baggage- not necessarily fully positive, but not too negative either- and were now on the lookout for their big moment, after years of toil.
Four players, namely Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mashrafe Mortaza and Tamim Iqbal form a quartet who have seen the crests and the troughs closer than others in the last decade.
Two out of the four, namely Shakib and Rahim, have stood out for them thus far in the competition.
For a good part of the last 10 years, Shakib has been up there as one of the best all-rounders in the game. In a sense, he has been the torchbearer for Bangladesh cricket, who is often sorted out in teams around the world.
He was the first player from his country to play county cricket for Worcestershire in 2009 and in the best years of Kolkata Knight Riders, Gautam Gambhir would use him as a wicket-taking option on pitches which assisted spin and also used him at the death at times, where he would fire darts to keep the boundaries at check.
But for the first time, perhaps, we have seen both facets of his game shine at it’s fullest in this World Cup. He’s been simply sensational with the bat, amassing 476 runs in six matches and with the ball too he has given the team an added dimension, with 10 wickets. With just over 20 matches left, regardless of where they end up, Shakib has put him well in contention to win the Player of the tournament award.
The year was 2010. India were in Bangladesh for a short tour and were on the cusp of winning, but not before Rahim had slammed his maiden Test century.
After the defeat, he revealed that some of the Indian players had referred to him as a ‘schoolboy’. Unsurprising really. Because from then on, Rahim hasn’t grown one bit in stature as a human being but has done as a cricketer, providing an excellent foil for Shakib.
327 runs in six matches in this World Cup is a proof of that and on Tuesday, Bangladesh will want him to be at his best against India.
There aren’t players in the present Bangladesh setup, looking at whom you would classify as role-model material. But one player who, perhaps, deserves that tagline is Mashrafe Mortaza.
Here is a cricketer, who started off in 2001 at a time when the world saw Bangladesh cricket as a joke and then as time progressed, battled his way through one injury after another and saw the team rise up to challenge with the world.
Tactically, perhaps Mortaza doesn’t possess the greatest of acumen, but he is a bit more from the Ganguly school of leadership: A man who leads by personality, who gets the best of players and commands respect in the side.
There is a reason why Tamim Iqbal features last on this list. It is because while the other three get talked about a lot for their performances, the opener isn’t quite always in the news, maybe he doesn’t get the tall scores at the top of the order, often enough.
One look at his ODI stats since 2015, however, reveals a slightly different story. From 2015–2018, Iqbal’s ODI average is 46.37, 45. 22, 64.60 and 85.50.
There are just seven centuries to speak of in this period, but the average is indicative of a player who has given the side the starts it is looking for and in a sense, helped the rest of the players build on the foundation laid by him and Soumya Sarkar, who has been one of their better players.
As the business end of the league stage approaches, it will be these four players who have to stand up and perform and show that this is now Bangladesh’s moment. That there is a reason for the world to put trust on them and that this indeed is their moment.
The next week and more will give a glimpse or dare I say, more than that.