x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A gigantic leap for the Tigers of Bangladesh

Bangladesh's series sweep over New Zealand shows they are on the verge of something special.

Bangladesh players rejoice after their historic ODI series sweep over New Zealand.
Bangladesh players rejoice after their historic ODI series sweep over New Zealand.

They are already calling it the Banglawash, and poor New Zealand will have to live with the ignominy of being the first Test-playing nation to be blanked by Bangladesh in a series.

When a yorker from Rubel Hossain crashed into Kyle Mills's leg stump to seal a three-run win, it completed the most successful fortnight in the cricket history of a nation finally coming to terms with its undoubted potential.

New Zealand fans may console themselves with the thought that the Tigers trumped them on slow and low surfaces ideally suited to their flotilla of slow bowlers.

But if it is excuses we are dealing in, consider the Bangladeshi XI. No Mohammad Ashraful, dropped after flattering to deceive one time too many. No Mashrafe Mortaza, injured yet again. And most importantly, no Tamim Iqbal, the left-hander whose dazzling strokeplay recently won him The Wisden Cricketer's Cricketer of the Year award.

It was left to Shakib al Hasan, tremendously gifted but also mature beyond his years, to lead an inexperienced side with bat, ball and captaincy nous.

Still only 23, Shakib first caught the eye at the 2007 World Cup. It was not just his tidy left-arm spin or the nifty shots that made an impression. He played with a composure that eluded many of his seniors, especially Ashraful, whose game veered between near-genius and sheer ineptitude.

In 98 games, Shakib has taken 120 wickets with a miserly economy rate of 4.21. And in a team where batsmen have seldom made an impression, his five centuries and an average of 34.33 - higher than Imran Khan, Ian Botham and Kapil Dev - make him the sort of all-rounder that most sides crave.

The history of sport is littered with moments or games that transformed a team's fortunes.

Would Jose Mourinho have been the "Special One" without Porto's last-ditch equaliser at Old Trafford in 2004, a game that Manchester United dominated? Would there have been a Miracle of Istanbul without Steven Gerrard's thunderbolt for Liverpool against Olympiakos?

Years from now, and after several false dawns, the Tigers might look back at this series with that sort of fondness. With a population of 162 million, many of them captivated by cricket, and role models like Shakib and Tamim, they are poised on the verge of something special.

They play all their World Cup group matches on home soil early next year, in Mirpur and Chittagong. With two of the quarter-finals also slated for Mirpur, be prepared for an upset or three.

When India arrived at the 1983 World Cup in England, they had won just one game in two previous tournaments, against lowly East Africa in 1975. In 40 one-day internationals (ODIs), they had won just 12, and it was no surprise they were considered outsiders. Yet, they beat the West Indies twice on their way to the trophy, including a 34-run win in their opening game in Manchester.

The spadework for those shocks had been done a couple of months earlier, at a venue that's no longer part of the international circuit.

The Albion Sports Complex in the Guyanese town of Berbice hosted the Indians in March 1983. Clive Lloyd had Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Winston Davis in his ranks, but inspired by 90 from Sunil Gavaskar and a swashbuckling 38-ball 72 from Kapil Dev, India romped to 282 from just 47 overs.

It might still not have been enough, the way the great Vivian Richards set about the pursuit.

But after slamming the ball this way and that for 64 from 50 balls, Madan Lal disturbed his stumps with innocuous medium pace.

India went on to win by 27 runs, and a team that was only just getting used to Kapil's leadership began to believe. At Lord's three months later, defending a paltry 183, it was again Lal who accounted for the most destructive batsman of his age, with Kapil taking a memorable catch on the run.

Four years later, an Australian team in transition arrived in India for the first World Cup to be hosted by the subcontinent.

In their opening game, they piled up 270 against the hosts in Chennai. India were cruising for much of the chase, but the pace of Craig McDermott, the accuracy of Steve Waugh and some decidedly ordinary running between wickets saw Allan Border's team edge home by a run.

Australia had lost their five previous ODIs, but success against one of the tournament favourites was just the spur they needed.

They would lose only once [to India] on their way to the trophy and the years that followed would be ones of plenty rather than famine. On the flip side, English cricket might have been spared a decade and more of misery if Mike Gatting had not opted for a reverse-sweep with the final there for the taking.

Sri Lanka went from the basement in 1992 (only Zimbabwe finished below them in the points table) to top of the pile in 1996.

Arjuna Ranatunga and his side also made best use of conditions that favoured their style of play. Like them, the Indians of '83 and the Aussies of '87, a young and vibrant Bangladesh team who have learnt not to choke at pivotal moments can dare to dream. There are no limits.

 

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo

sports@thenational.ae

RANKINGS

Test
Country Tests Points Rating
1 India 34 4433 130
2 South Africa 29 3463 119
3 Sri Lanka 23 2635 115
4 England 39 4355 112
5 Australia 37 4061 110
6 Pakistan 23 1918 83
7 West Indies 21 1668 79
8 New Zealand 25 1946 78
9 Bangladesh 19 131 7

ODI
Country ODIs Points Rating
1 Australia 32 4229 132
2 India 33 3811 115
3 South Africa 18 2075 115
4 Sri Lanka 30 3458 115
5 England 28 3147 112
6 New Zealand 23 2293 100
7 Pakistan 22 2176 99
8 West Indies 18 1207 67
9 Bangladesh 27 1717 64