The Asia Cup, 2012:
We Die to Live Another Day!
Photos: Anisur Rahman
It was a Fairy Tale. With a nation of 160 million always hoping against hope, it took a brave heart in Shakib Al Hasan to declare on the eve of the tournament on March 10, 'Our target is to be champion'. Only the most optimistic among all optimists would have played with Shakib that day. The stage was set on March 11 for Bangladesh to play in the initial game of the Asia Cup, 2012 against the 1992 World Cup Champions, Pakistan.
The first game was like Cinderella failing to make it to the grand ball in the palace only to stay at home watching her sisters go. For the Tigers and an aspiring nation exuberating with youth, the first match was the same old story. Anti-climax! The Tigers restricted Pakistan to a reasonable 262 with Shahadat and Shakib returning figures of 3/53 and 2/41 respectively. Tamim who was included only at the last moment rose to the occasion knocking 64. Shakib and Nasir knocked 64 and 47 respectively. Alas! The Tigers once again fell short!
The Fairy Godmother came to visit the Tigers that night. She whispered something in 'Little' Mushie's ears. March 16, the next match was against the current World Champions- India. The stage could not have been larger for Bangladesh. For almost a year, batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar had toiled to 'go where no mad had gone before' to score that elusive 100th international Ton that one-sixth of the world's population in India and millions of cricket lovers around the world had been waiting and praying for.
Sachin Tendulkar cemented Mirpur in the records of cricket history showing form may be temporary, but class is permanent. The 100th 100 finally came for the maestro- 114 runs from 147 balls in 205 minutes that included 12 boundaries and an over boundary. India piled up 289. It seemed almost inevitable that the final would be an 'Asian Ashes'. For a nation that is still in the euphoria of celebrating its forty years of independence, the fairy tale had just begun for Bangladesh. The magic of the Fairy Godmother had just started. Tamim (70); Jahurul (53); Nasir (54); Shakib (49) and 'Little' Mushie (46*) showed Bangladesh can rise to the occasion to accomplish mission NOT impossible. Bangladesh won by five wickets and four balls to spare.
Confidence was oozing at Mirpur on March 20, 2012. The 25K spectators were roaring with 160 million Tigers throughout Bangladesh. If Bangladesh was to make a mark- this was the day to do so against the 1996 world champions, Sri Lanka. And they did so in great style. Nazmul's spell of 3/32 almost sealed the match. He was ably supported by the Narail Express, Mashrafe (1/30) and the spin duo Razzak (2/44) and Shakib (2/56). The bowlers performed as a unit to restrict Sri Lanka to 232. Again it was Tamim (59) and Shakib (56) who were this time supported by Nasir (36*) and Mahmudullah (32*). Bangladesh won by 5 wickets in spite of the rain that fell only on Mirpur stadium that day in the whole of Dhaka.
The stage was set on March 22, 2012 for Bangladesh to once again face Pakistan. Shakib's prophetic words now seemed like daylight. Bangladesh was on the brink of making history. Here was a group of 20-something youths representing the pride and honour of a nation that longed for creating history. The script could not have been bigger.
The rest is history. Bangladesh was just one stroke away from what could have been history. Bangladesh failed to win the Asia Cup 2012 falling short by only two runs to Pakistan. Surprisingly, for once the nation was not sad at this loss. The whole nation cried when they saw 'Little' Mushie and his 'Merry Men' cry. It was these tears and the spirit of a team that would not say die to the last moment that brought the nation together. It was a group of 20-something boys who united Bangladesh. It was millions of other young boys and girls who showed the world that when Bangladesh unites as a nation, they can win the hearts of people around the world. Bangladesh won the hearts at the Asia Cup 2012.
In 1960 at the Wooloongabba, Brisbane, The West Indies finished the game's first Tied Test Match. Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Conrad Hunte, Rohan Kanhai, Sonny Ramadhin, Wesley Hall and Alf Valentine were the 'Merry Men' who played as a unit against the Mighty Aussies that day, to show the world the hearts of the Caribbean. Although West Indies failed to win the Test they captured the hearts of the cricketing world. Above all, they earned the respect of the cricketing world that day. The rest is history. A decade later under Clive Lloyd, rose one of the most powerful and graceful teams in cricket history- the 'Fire in Babylon'.
Sport is a zero-sum game. The loser is never remembered. Only on rare occasions does the world remember and honour a loser when the players of losing team play with their hearts out and as a unit. In spite of their loss in the Asia Cup the Tigers have proved they are capable of larger accomplishments like the West Indies were under Sir Frank Worrell in 1960. In his Facebook page, The Prince of Caribbean Cricket, Brian Charles Lara proclaimed “Be aware world. Bangladesh is the new terror!” With their sheer talent and unit to play their hearts out, Bangladesh won the hearts, attention and imagination of the cricketing world. The young Tigers have demonstrated the power and the grace of youth. They have been the best ambassadors of the nation for a long time.
Had Cinderella gone back to collect her glass slippers, she would never have become a Princess. Bangladesh lost the Asia Cup, but won hearts. A better prize awaits the Tigers somewhere else on another day. The Tigers died in Asia Cup 2012 only to live another day. Go Tigers Go! It is in you that the spirit of Bangladesh flies high.
(The author teaches economic theory at Jahangirnagar University and North South University.)