By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Bangladesh played wonderfully well. This is a new Bangladesh team and they are really the winners - Misbah-ul-Haq at the presentation ceremony of the Asia Cup final.
Bangladesh’s fairytale campaign in the Asia Cup 2012 ended in tears as they fell just two runs of creating historic. Pakistan won the championship, Bangladesh the hearts – a sentiment that swept across social media platforms. Even Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq termed them as the “real winners”.
The Bangladesh juggernaut rolled over several monumental performances like Sachin Tendulkar’s historic 100th international hundred and Virat Kohli’s spectacular 183 to reach the final destination. The onus now is on Bangladesh to make this a defining moment and strive to raise the bar in the days ahead. Bangladesh’s performance in the Asia Cup 2012 against the present World Cup champions India and two past World Cup champs in Sri Lanka and Pakistan have given emphatic proof that they have the necessary skills and consistency to challenge the best in the world.
Shakib Al Hasan has been Bangladesh’s talisman for years, and it is no surprise that he has been their best player during their finest hour yet. He is the pillar around whom the team revolves. There is hardly a Bangladeshi success where he has failed to leave his mark. Hs body language is positive and that of a winner.
With the bat, Shakib is to Bangladesh what Michael Hussey is to Australia. In pressure situations, he presents a cool demeanour which eases the nerves of the team. Bangladesh’s run-chases in the Asia Cup weren’t easy and it was Shakib’s determination that saw them fight it out in the middle. In a country that produces left-arm spinners by conveyor belt methods, Shakib stands out with his control. Despite the responsibility of being the mainstay in the batting line-up, he handles the bowling job very well and forms an effective partnership with Abdur Razzak.
The odds against Bangladesh prior to the start of the tournament weren’t their only worries as the Tamim Iqbal selection drama hogged all the unwanted attention. It wasn’t the ideal build-up and would have naturally had a negative influence on the dressing room. In hindsight, his timely call-up was a sensible move and has paid rich dividends. One could see the burning desire to succeed in his eyes as he had a point to prove to his detractors. He anchored the run-chases at the top in all the games and gave Bangladesh brilliant starts.
The most impressive aspect of his batting was his application. One would expect a sensible approach from Shakib, but Tamim is usually considered a slam-bang player who would throw his bat at the hint of an opportunity. Contrary to those beliefs, he has showed that he can apply himself and pace his innings according to the situation. There was a genuine attempt to stay in the middle and knock off as many runs as possible. The bad balls were put away with disdain and the good deliveries were treated with respect. Through all that, he managed to maintain a healthy strike-rate and it took the pressure off the middle order. The next time Bangladeshi selectors consider dropping him, they would do well to think again.
A team may have talented players, but they need a guiding force that channelizes their energies in the right direction. Mushfiqur Rahim’s captaincy has been absolutely brilliant as he marshalled his troops brilliantly. He is a curious mix of boyish enthusiasm and maturity. Some of his field placements were meticulously planned keeping the opposing batsman’s strengths and weakness in perspective.
When needed, he has shuffled the batting order to provide the extra punch. Nasir Hossain’s promotion to No 4 in the game against India helped Shakib as the youngster matched him for almost every stroke. However, the move to promote himself during that crucial run-chase reflected his courageous mindset and self-belief. With a career strike-rate hovering around the late 60s, one wouldn’t have backed Mushfiqur to come good during the slog-overs. He walked in ahead of more reputed hitters such as Mohammad Mahmudullah and Mashrafe Mortaza and wielded his willow to seal the deal for Bangladesh. Such confidence by the captain in his own ability has the potential to lift the spirits of his team.
The Bangladesh bowlers laid the foundation for the successful campaign. Mortaza reaffirmed his class with disciplined performances. Nazmul Hossain came into the team for crunch games and handled the situation brilliantly. However, the spinners, Shakib and Razzak strangled the opposition in the middle overs and didn’t let them get away. The pressure was built up-front by the fast bowlers and that was complemented by the miserly accuracy in the middle.
Bangladesh may have done enough to banish the tag of minnows forever. They have given ample evidence that they are now a force to reckon with and that no team in the world can take them lightly. Unquestionably, their performances ahead will be watched with much interest by the cricketing world.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.")