DHAKA: Bangladesh has been mentioned more often in 2015 with dignity and honor than ever before in the world sports arena because of superlative performances by iconic Bangladesh Cricketer Mashrafe led Bangladesh Cricket team. This writer witnessed the admirable tigers’ performance in ICC world cup down under.
Qualifying for quarterfinals ahead of one of the favorites England itself was a huge achievement. At MCG quarterfinal against favored India Bangladesh earned genuine sympathy of neutral cricket community. After World cup, wounded tigers hunted down Pakistan, India and South Africa in home series of ODI. Unfortunately, Australia did not travel to Bangladesh to play two matches test series in the excuse of perceived insecurity. It has capped off its 2015 golden year with an ODI series white wash against visiting Zimbabwe. By any yardstick 2015 is the most successful cricket year for Bangladesh.
What really happened which made this admirable turn around? Bangladesh was looking down the barrel in the mid-2014. Whether Tests, ODIs or T20s, Bangladesh was in a losing cycle in all formats. They not only lost to superior oppositions like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia but also lost to Afghanistan and Netherlands during this period of time. Top all-rounder Shakib had disciplinary issues. BCB desperately made some changes. Mushfiqur was relieved of responsibilities of leading ODI and T20 teams. Inspirational Bangladesh captain Mashrafe was fit again for representing his proud mates. Recharged Bangladesh comprehensively whitewashed Zimbabwe wining all matches of Tests and ODIs.
The team travelled to down under with renewed enthusiasm. Placed in group of death having Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and England Bangladesh advanced to quarter finals winning matches against Afghanistan, Scotland and knocking out England. They competed admirably against New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The match against Australia scheduled to be played in Brisbane was rained out. The highly charged quarter final at Iconic MCG was spoiled by controversial umpiring as few 50-50 decisions went against Bangladesh. All senior players Tamim, Shakib, Mushfiqur, Mahmudullah, Rubel performed admirably. New champions were born in Soumya Sarkar, Sabbir and Taskin. Bangladesh really felt deprived having been served poorly at MCG.
Pakistan was the first visitor following the world cup. Bangladesh was still leaking the wounds. Wounded tigers bounced back in vengeance. Pakistan was blown away in ODI and T20. Bangladesh went on avenging MCG defeat with a 2-1 win over MS Dhoni’s India. A little magician named Mustafizur was born to world cricket. Soumya started moving and shaking. Even strong South Africa was not spared. Mashrafe-squad won that series also 2-1. Bangladesh elevated its standing to 7th position in ICC ODI ranking above West Indies and Pakistan. This qualified them for appearance in ICC Champions trophy.
The Australian Cricket team was scheduled to visit Bangladesh in October following their Ashes debacle. Only a few days before their scheduled departure they indicated postponing the visit on a tip of security alert from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The retirement of few key players, injury and resting of few others considerably weakened Australian team. Impressive Bangladesh could prove competitive. It was really unfortunate that the series did not go ahead though Bangladesh pledged highest security arrangement. Aussie soccer team, though, is appearing in World Cup Asia Oceania qualifying match against Bangladesh in Dhaka on November 17. FIFA regretted Australian request to relocate the venue. Australia could not afford giving walk over and risking elimination from qualifying round.
Zimbabwe, the tested friend of Bangladesh, filled in on request of Bangladesh. They were no match for Bangladesh in ODI getting whitewashed though they somehow managed winning the final T20 match marginally.
Bangladesh played 18 ODIs in 2015, including 6 in the ICC World Cup, against 8 oppositions winning 13 and losing 5. They were the second most successful ODI team in 2015 only after Australia. Inspirational leader Mashrafe joined the elite club of leading captains the likes of Clive Lloyd, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clark. Several players like Soumya, Mustafiz, Mushfique and Nasir elevated their rankings in ODI. Bangladesh is really looking good in ODI. There is still room for major improvement in T20 and test cricket.
The greatest achievement of Bangladesh in 2015 is that several top quality youngsters have burst into the scene. The prominent among them are boy wonder teenager magician Mustafiz and wonderfully aggressive Batsman Soumya Sarkar. Both of them are from remote district Satkhira in the south which incidentally is adjacent to World Heritage the Sundarbans, the abode of Royal Bengal Tigers. Mustafiz, with his slow cutters, remained a mystery bowler. Even players like Hashim Amla, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma could not decode his mystery. Mustafiz has already rewritten some world records. In only 9 ODIs he took three 5 wickets haul, equaled the highest 13 wickets in his first series of 3 ODI. Many have spotted his talent as a major ground breaking. Many have found a new Wasim Akram in him already. Mustafiz is a prized possession and must be preserved carefully.
Soumya Sarkar is another find of unlimited potential. His periscope stroke has already stamped his brand. He is an aggressive opening batsman and is destined to serve Bangladesh for a while. Another player who attracted attention is Sabbir Rahman. He is a very aggressive stroke maker who now in late middle order has given depth and diversity to Bangladesh batting. Nasir Hossain has strengthened his reputation as an aggressive finisher and effective all-rounder. Sabbir and Nasir are also world class fielders.
All these are new additions to established stars Tamim, Shakib, Mahmudullah, Imrul Kayes and Mushfique. Bangladesh now has five to six competent performers. It no longer depends on two or three. Bangladesh can withstand pressure; can fight back from challenging situation.
The team is no longer a spin heavy team. The emergence of Taskin, Mustafiz, Al-Amin and return to form of Rubel Hossain has given options for team think tank in pace bowling. Icon cricketer Mashrafe retains his superbly controlled pace bowling. Addition of Jubair, Arafat Sunny and Taijul has also strengthened spin department. Nasir and Mahmudullah are also useful spinners.
Mashrafe as leader deserves special mentioning. No cricketer ever has demonstrated such strong character as he did. Most top cricketers bade bye to international cricket after one or two major surgeries. Mash had seven. Still, he returned and going strong. His influential and infectious leadership pioneered resurgence of Bangladesh. How wonderfully he squeezed the best out of his mates! A team is as good as its leader. Mashrafe is the like the war heroes in the Bangladesh cricket front.
One among the other reasons for Bangladesh making giant strides was that Bangladesh played several series against quality opposition in the year. BCB must work proactively for organizing more and more bilateral series at home and abroad.
Cricket has been acting as uniting force of Bangladesh society. It has encouraged a new generation of Bangladeshis in loving the country, believing in themselves, and creating “Can do Attitude”. Cricket has really glorified Bangladesh.
BDST: 1523 HRS, NOV 17, 2015