Bangladesh's World Cup
As a cricketing nation Bangladesh has gone through more than its fare share of problems, but now seemingly there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Bangladeshi cricket reached its adolescence as a nation found its voice cheering the team on. Now in our adolescence, the team must look forward to more success, while at the same time remaining humble. That is easier said than done.
So far 2007 has been a good year for Bangladeshi cricket, and it has all centreed around the World Cup. We were the first team to arrive for the tournament a full two weeks before it even started and the rather long period of acclimatisation certainly helped us. The team started off by winning a three way mini series against Canada and Bermuda, where they totally outclassed their opponents. Next came the first big win for the team this year, in an official World Cup warm up match against a full strength New Zealand side; Bangladesh stunned them to win by two wickets. After New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat fist, the spirited tigers restricted them to 224. The wrecker in chief was Mashrafe Mortaza, as he took four for 44 in 9 hostile overs, this as it would turn out would not be the four wicket haul he will be best remembered for. While Bangladesh teams of the past would have crumbled under the pressure of beating an established nation, this team did not. They exorcised the ghosts of many defeats as they came home winners by 2 wickets, the game was finished emphatically as Mortaza hit sixes of consecutive balls to end the game. The team was off to a great start, but more was to follow.
The final warm up game was against Scotland and Bangladesh walked over them quite easily as they put together a little winning streak. The cricketing world's expectations for Bangladesh ended with their victory over Scotland, the rest of the world thought it would back to their usual role of whipping boys when they next faced India. The Indian team had possibly the best batting lineup on paper with more than 40,000 collective runs between them, little did they know that they would face a different Bangladesh team than they were used to. The tables were turned as Mashrafe Mortaza played havoc with the much-vaunted Indian batting lineup. But while he hogged the headlines with a superb spell of four for 38 in just under ten overs, his silent partner in crime was the headline shy Abdur Razzak. The Indian batting collapsed to 159 for nine, and it was only a face saving last wicket partnership which brought some semblance of respectability to their score.
What happened next had to be seen to be believed. Bangladesh set about their run chase in dramatic fashion as the 17 year old Tamim Iqbal took the Indian bowling apart. He showed the fearlessness of his age as he even had the audacity to charge down the pitch to the Indian fast bowlers, it was a lesson in ferocity and tenacity. His rapid fifty set the tone for the innings, as Bangladesh never looked out of control in their run chase. The controversial choice for the World Cup squad Mushfiqur Rahim showed real class by grinding out a sedate yet mature fifty. Another youngster Saquibul Hassan scored fifty as three teenagers showed up the might of India. It was a victory that sparked wild celebrations across Bangladesh, and it was set up by three “boys” playing the “men” of India. After that outstanding game other results had to go our way if we were to dump India out of the tournament and take out place in the Super 8's along with the big guns. While the Tigers were humbled by a powerful Sri Lankan side, so were India, and it left us only needing to beat Bermuda to reach the Super 8's.
On the 25th of March 2007 Bangladesh overcame a spirited performance from Bermuda to move into the second stage of the World Cup for the first time. From being maligned by the entire cricketing fraternity, the Tigers were right up there competing with them. It turned the world upside down and after many false starts, and isolated victories the team finally brought some consistency to its game. In the second round the team will face the best of the best and with mature heads on young shoulders, one feels they should perform well. While the final is on the 28th of April Bangladesh plays its last Super 8 game on the 19th, come what may we went within ten days of the World Cup final. Maybe next time we'll cut distance just a little more.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007