Bangladesh's meteoric rise mirrors that of Sri Lanka in the mid-1990s
Cricket has just witnessed one of its latest renditions of David's victory over Goliath.
Bangladesh have accomplished what many would have considered impossible not so long ago. In an age when non-Bangladeshi cricket fans are still referring to the 'Tigers' as 'minnows', Bangladesh have pulled off three consecutive series victories against top-notch teams. Amit Banerjee sees a repeat of Sri Lanka's meteoric rise in international cricket in Bangladesh's achievements.
Cricket has just witnessed one of its latest renditions of David's victory over Goliath. It all began with the 'Banglawash' of the Pakistanis — a side they had failed to achieve a victory against for over 16 years. It continued with a 2-1 series victory against the Indians, who in recent months had become 'The Team' for them to beat due to a series of controversies. It has now skyrocketed to a whole new level, thanks to a hard-earned victory against the Proteas, the number one Test team in the World. Five game changing moments for Bangladesh which left South Africa clueless in the 3rd ODI
Yes, Bangladesh are on a rampage at the moment, and look to tame everything that comes their way. They are currently scripting one of the most inspirational stories in sporting history, one that probably has a couple of more chapters to be added. The team led by Mashrafe Mortaza and Mushfiqur Rahim in limited-overs cricket and Tests respectively are giving their country the sporting glory that they had been surviving without since the country's inception, barring perhaps the likes of Niaz Murshed (the first South Asian to earn the Grandmaster title).
Cricket has bore witness to such rags-to-riches tales from the West Indies' rise to dominance in the 1970s and 1980s to the Hansie Cronje-led South Africa's rapid growth in the 90s. One can even look at Kenya's historic semi-final appearance in the 2003 World Cup for inspiration. Bangladesh's victories, however, mirror the progress that Sri Lanka had portrayed in the mid-90s under Arjuna Ranatunga, especially around their epic victory in the 1996 World Cup. Tamim Iqbal steps up to help Bangladesh complete treble
The Sri Lankan team began to record their first victories in the early 90s with series wins in both Tests and One-Day Internationals (ODIs) against Australia and New Zealand. The Lankans began to peak around 1995-96, winning a Test series in New Zealand, which finally culminated into the World Cup triumph under the inspirational leadership of Ranatunga. The Lankan lions have not looked back ever since, finishing as the joint champions of the 2002 Champions Trophy, runners-up in the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, winning the Asia Cup in 2004, 2008 and 2014, and winning World T20 2014, among other achievements.
There is many a similarity between the Bangladesh team during the previous decade and the pre-96 Sri Lankans. The two South Asian sides were relegated to the shadows, barely getting enough opportunities to prove themselves. Both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh took a few years to achieve their first Test victory. Both sides went on to script turnarounds with the help of combined brilliance of several talented individuals. Is Bangladesh Cricket's rise due to Mashrafe Mortaza?
While Sri Lanka's rise coincided with the emergence of legends such as Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas, Kumar Sangakkara, and Mahela Jayawardene, Bangladesh witnessed its transformation only after the team grew from a one-man team to a side of talented individuals that fire when their team needs them to. It is not about Shakib Al Hasan any more: this side boasts of the brilliance of Mushfiqur, Mortaza, Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Mahmudullah, Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain, Taskin Ahmed, Nasir Hossain, and Anamul Haque, among others.
Having said that, Bangladesh must guard themselves from complacency. They must realise that winning three consecutive ODI series on home soil is not enough to command respect in the modern game, something that the Indian cricket team can testify to. They have to start targeting foreign soil as well as other formats, most importantly, Test cricket. The selection committee of Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) have to be ensure they leave no stone unturned in giving opportunities to the finest talent. It is now up to those individuals to continue with the good work and build the tower whose foundation has been built so solidly. Shakib Al Hasan must step up to help Bangladesh be consistent
(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, travelling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)