Bangladesh heralds new era after back-to-back win over 2011 World Cup finalists

Shaikb Al Hasan (left) and Mashrafe Mortaza (right) ” two world class players in the Bangladesh ranks who played meaningful roles in Bangladesh’s victory over Sri Lanka on Tuesday that gave them an entry into the final of the Asia Cup © AFP

 

By Karthik Parimal

 

The final is one of the biggest achievements in our cricketing history. Hopefully we will cross that hurdle. –Mushfiqur Rahim.

 

The Bangladeshi skipper had every right to be proud of his team. They weren’t even given a chance before the commencement of this tournament, but they made the world take notice of their growing stature with the two finalists of the 2011 World Cup – India and Sri Lanka. Both victories have been emphatic, which makes their entry into the final of the Asia Cup that much praiseworthy. That they fell short by 21 runs in toppled Pakistan in the first match of the championship is proof that the Stuart Law-coached team has scaled new highs in world cricket.

 

Bangladesh stayed focussed to their task after Sachin Tendulkar’s landmark 100th international century that sent the cricketing world into delirium. They maintained their composure to chase down an imposing total of 289. The Sri Lankans, albeit being knocked out of the tournament before this game, were expected to play in top gear so that they could leave this tournament on a high, but the Bangladeshis seemed well aware of this fact and handed Sri Lanka its third consecutive defeat in this tournament with nonchalant ease and enter the final in style.

 

Bangladesh made its first appearance in the Asia Cup in 1986, and has now made it to the final for the first time in 26 years. They’ve got a huge opportunity to win this tournament, considering the fact that the momentum is currently with them after having won two consecutive matches against giants like India and Sri Lanka, whereas Pakistan’s morale could have taken a hit after its defeat to India in its last game.

 

Bangladesh has shown glimpses of brilliance in the past, but they failed to win on a consistent basis. Now that they’ve discovered what it takes to win, the Bangladeshis must look to do it more often, and on bigger stages. Although it is being said that the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) has brought this positive turnaround and has helped Bangladesh to aggressively chase down targets, one gets the feeling that their fighting instinct was brewing for a while now and came to light during the series against New Zealand in 2010.

 

That series was just a few months before the 2011 World Cup and it revealed the immense potential this young Bangladeshi side, despite the absence of Tamim Iqbal and Mashrafe Mortaza, whitewashed a strong Kiwi team. It appeared as though things would take an upward swing for Bangladesh thereafter, but it wasn’t long before they hit a familiar slump.

 

Many expected them to perform decently in the 2011 World Cup since the conditions wasn’t alien to them, but the only victory worth remembering for them came against England. They went on to win against minnows Ireland and Netherlands but lost heavily to India, South Africa and the West Indies. Nevertheless, their performance in this World Cup was better than their performances in the previous World Cups, and they looked like a unit desperate to improve.

 

They had quite a few internal issues to deal with post World Cup, but it’s heart-warming to see that those issues haven’t affected Bangladesh or propelled them into a downward spiral. Despite being axed as captain, Shakib Al Hasan has put the team ahead of him and has continued to make vital contributions. Also, the fact that Tamim Iqbal and the head honchos of Bangladesh Cricket amicably settled their differences before the Asia Cup began has augured well for the team, since Tamim has gone on to become the leading run-getter for Bangladesh in this series with three consecutive half-centuries in as many games. The Bangladeshis are making the right moves at the right times.

 

Bangladesh has showed that their victories had very little to do with luck and that the win against India was not a flash in the pan. As Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene humbly admitted, Bangladesh’s victories were a result of brilliant team effort and cannot be attributed to just individual performances. This was evident in the game against Sri Lanka, as the Bangladeshi players showed tremendous presence of mind and didn’t let the downfall of Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hassan rattle them during the run chase. They maintained their composure and played One-Day International (ODI) cricket the way it is meant to be played. They accelerated and consolidated accordingly.

 

Before this tournament began, the Bangladeshi supporters were beginning to get a little restless and impatient by the consistent losses. But now, their team has given them a reason to celebrate and has re-instilled the faith. If they can overcome a formidable Pakistani side in the final, a new chapter will be written in Bangladesh’s history, and this will eventually augur well for cricket on the whole.

 

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)