Munir Dar… Years of wait in the cricket-wilderness of Hong Kong has finally come off © AFP
Forty-year old Munir Dar scripted a historic win for Hong Kong over Bangladesh in ICC World Twenty20 2014. Abhishek Mukherjee celebrates a perfect end to a fairytale saga.
Munir Dar was born in Gujrat (not Gujarat) in Punjab. Munir Dar can easily be passed as an Omar Sharif doppelganger. Munir Dar is 16 days past his 40th birthday. Munir Dar was suspended from bowling in international cricket for 12 months for having an illegal bowling action. Munir Dar had picked up four for 17 against both Canada and USA in the World Twenty20 qualifier.
When Hong Kong had managed to qualify for the Asia Cup 2008, he had scored 14 and four; he did not pick up a wicket, but bowled neat spells of 8-1-34-0 against Pakistan (in a score of 288 for nine) and 10-0-55-0 against India (in a score of 374 for four). Then he had vanished into oblivion, probably without any hope of playing at the big stage.
In the ongoing ICC World T20 2014, Hong Kong had been thrashed by Nepal in the first match. Dar did not play in that match. He made his T20I debut the next match against Afghanistan, where Hong Kong lost again despite doing somewhat better. They were definitely not expected to win against Bangladesh, easily the best of the four teams till today.
But suddenly all went wrong for the hosts: Tanwir Afzal picked up two wickets in the first over; and then, from 85 for three they lost the last seven wickets for 23 runs in the space of a mere 35 balls. Suddenly Bangladesh found them defending 109 in 20 overs (in 13.1 overs if they wanted to reach the final).
The Hong Kong onslaught was started by the powerful Irfan Ahmed, who, with his strong shoulders and baseball-like stance hit a few home runs sixes; once he fell, however, Hong Kong lost four wickets for six runs in the space of 12 balls: it was all falling apart for them. Nepal were as good as knocked out; and a sense of déjà vu crept in the hearts of the cricket fans. Why can the minnows not capitalise on great starts?
It was then that the 40-year old took control in what was probably his last match against a Test side: with Nizakat Khan in tow, he started off in ones and twos. They needed 59 from 65 balls when the fifth wicket fell; the gap between balls and runs kept on reducing; but Dar never lost his cool. Then, with 48 left from 46 balls, he shuffled across and hit Farhad Reza past square-leg for four.
The pressure was lifted, albeit temporarily. The gap closed in as Mohammad Mahmudullah brought things down to 36 from 36. Dar steered the first ball from Rubel Hossain towards third man; the ball raced towards the fence, but an amazing stop by the fielder stopped the boundary. Dar, who had assumed a certain boundary, had strolled across the pitch; when the realisation dawned upon him that the ball would not reach the fence, he sprinted unusually fast for a man of his frame and age and made his crease — but not before he collided with the little Mushfiqur Rahim.
Dar went down in agony, but after a few minutes of medical assistance he was back up on his feet; he had a banana, steered the next ball to third-man, and this time he made a dash for the non-striker’s end. Just in case, he must have thought: it was, unfortunately, a mere single.
Then Mahmudullah sent down the 15th over — one that yielded a mere three runs. Nizakat, unable to restrain himself, gave in to the pressure that had been accumulating due to the dot balls; Mominul Haque, the substitute, took an easy catch at deep backward square-leg.
Four overs. 26 runs. What would Dar do?
Reza bounced; Dar hooked ferociously; the ball took the top edge and raced to the fence through the vacant long-leg. Reza pitched up the next ball, and Dar hit him straight above his head; the Bangladeshi spectators watched the ball soar across the fence for a six.
The third one was defended, but he slashed hard at the fourth ball; it went past Mushfiqur’s right glove, was too fine for third-man, and Dar found another boundary. He pushed the next ball to third-man for a single, and Hong Kong were left to score 11 from the last three overs.
Then it happened. Abdur Razzak, veteran of many a battle despite his age, conceded only two leg-byes from the first four balls. Then came a brain-freeze, and Dar tried to play Razzak across the line, and was trapped leg-before; a fuming Dar left ground — probably for the last time in international cricket — after a 27-ball 36.
Some frantic hitting from Haseeb Amjad finished things off with two balls to spare.
It was as good as fairytales go. A forty-year old playing for a side that had only dreamed of playing against the major sides and had been humiliated in the Asia Cup when that had actually happened. They were not supposed to win a match in the ICC World Twenty20. They never had any chance after being thwarted by Nepal.
But the man, a veteran of world cricket, had managed to pull it through. He had dreamed of this since he had been playing the Hong Kong Super Sixes. He had dreamed of this when he played one qualifier after another. The 40-year old should ideally have smiled in satisfaction, looking back at his career that had culminated in helping his side to qualify for the World Twenty20.
Only that he did not. Years of wait in the cricket-wilderness of Hong Kong had finally come off, resulting in him masterminding a successful chase against a Test nation, no less. Now he can sign off in peace.
These are stories dreams are made of.
These are stories movies are made of.
Only that no one will, for he is too nondescript for that. Despite being an Omar Sharif doppelganger.
ICC World T20 2014 Points Table and Team Standings
ICC World T20 2014 Schedule details
(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)