Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bangladesh's man of destiny

Admittedly Bangladesh’s superlative bowling performance put them in the driver’s seat in their opening encounter at the World Cup against India today. Mashrafe Mortaza is known enough that the Indians must have been expecting him to bowl well. But Syed Rasel's first delivery, a beauty that beat Sourav Ganguly all ends up, set the bee buzzing in the ears of the batters. And after the two seamers had done early damage to both the Indian innings and confidence, the spinners bowled with verve and enthusiasm – allowing no backdoor from which India could mount a comprehensive recovery.

And yes, Mushfiqur Rahim and Saqibul Hasan’s 84 run partnership for the fourth wicket was the one that bought Bangladesh to the doorstep of victory.

The need to believe
But the most important hand in this historic event for Bangladesh was played by Tamim Iqbal, barely 18, who played a crackerjack innings of 51 off only 53 balls.

When Bangladesh came in to bat, their win was by no means certain. Perhaps the wicket would prove difficult enough to now bother the Bangladeshis as well. Perhaps a steady procession of wickets would ensue. Maybe this was about as far as they would get. In a situation like this, someone needed to believe that victory was there for the taking. Someone had to stand up to the considerable experience the Indians brought to bear on the game.

And someone had to take the innings by the scruff of its neck.

Enter Tamim Iqbal
That person of destiny for Bangladesh was Iqbal. Early on he was nailed on the throat by a kicker from Zaheer Khan. Off the very next ball Iqbal did something ghastly and immature – he jumped out and flailed wildly at a delivery well outside the off stump. It looked ugly and immature. And you got the feeling that Bangladesh’s lack of winning experience might get in the way.

Young and restless
Someone with more years under his belt might have paused. Jitters would have run through his hands and he may even have talked himself into settling in for the long haul. Instead Iqbal upped the ante and launched a blistering attack on the Indian seamers. Zaheer and Agarkar were dispatched summarily, almost arrogantly from well in front of the crease. Munaf, the pick of the Indian bowlers, was hoicked for a six. When Munaf tried to rattle him verbally, Iqbal talked right back to him instead of looking away.

It’s always absorbing to see a young gun like Iqbal being hunted by experienced players who’ve done it before. It’s positively thrilling to see that person buck the odds and come up spades. His knock put runs on the board so quickly that it allowed the remaining batsmen the luxury of time to build partnerships with extreme caution.

It was the cornerstone of the victory – a very important one. Because a new generation of Bangla players will grow up believing they will win, instead of dreaming that they might.

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