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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sunday, December 9, 2012
Sports

Sahara Cup 2012
Bangladesh vs West Indies

Riyad's just reward

On a March night earlier this year, Bangladesh vice-captain Mahmudullah Riyad stood at the crease with shoulders hunched and head bowed as Pakistan's players ran amuck in celebration of a 2-run victory in the Asia Cup final. He left the field amid the deafening silence of a million hearts breaking.

Riyad must then have wondered if he was destined to live within the inches separating glory from anonymity. That thought must have recurred when he was last man out -- after displaying rare courage in taking numerous body blows from a rampant Tino Best -- in the first Test against West Indies last month as Bangladesh failed to chase 245.

He has been the silent man of Bangladesh cricket. In the brilliance of the exploits of Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, his quality has often been pushed to the background. But as he has so often shown, he is a batsman of high quality and as evident from his willingness to bat anywhere in the order, a team man to the core.

Even during that miraculous ninth-wicket partnership with Shafiul Islam that won them the 2011 World Cup match at Chittagong against England, it was Shafiul, the lower-order batsman who outscored him, but keener followers noted Riyad's serenity that was key to that win.

But the man behind the scenes of the Tigers' glories stepped out of the shadows in this five-ODI series against the West Indies, spectacularly so in the decider last night at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium. Coming in at 30 for three and chasing a similar target to the one the Tigers had failed by a distance the previous night, Riyad seized his moment. His contribution was a 45-ball 48, but it defined the Tigers' response.

Promoted up the order after batting at seven for most of the series, he realised the importance of taking the game by the scruff of the neck. In doing so he ensured that the run-rate was not an issue when he departed the scene 91 runs later. Batting was not the easiest against the West Indians on the Mirpur pitch -- Kemar Roach was bowling at furious pace while Sunil Narine brought all the tricks out of his bag of mystery -- but still the man batted as if the pitch was perfect and the bowling ordinary.

In the past he has often been the man for a crisis, the person who repaired the damage only to see the rest of his teammates crumble at crucial junctures. Fortunately now, Bangladesh seem to have the depth in quality -- especially in the influx of brave young talent -- to pick up where he left off, and reward him with the results he deserves.

It so nearly might not have been because Riyad's place was under the scanner before the tour, but his performance in the series served as a reminder that someone like him, who almost always performs in crises, is invaluable and must be handled with care.

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