As Bresnan’s final delivery of the day was cut through between the dazed point and extra cover fielders like cheese, we, the ones who did not desert our boys, who stood by them for the last 57 runs scored, just did not know how to react.
A boy of hardly 19 ran to hug the nearest cop; for him that faded ash uniform probably felt like the country. Oldies patting boys, strangers dancing with each other, grown-up men imitating the tiger, people throwing blow-doll cheetahs into the still of the night, handshakes all around, rain of lozenges, men-women singing at the top of their voices – festivity all around.
Euphoric, was the atmosphere to say the least. We obviously had a great day with the ball. Shakib’s acumen as the captain came through as he held on to the reins of the English run curve. We were sitting at the eastern gallery, which is where your backward point would field, or say deep mid-wicket. As Morgan started to cut loose and threatened to wet Shakib’s plans, Imrul Kayes was fielding around the deep mid-wicket region to the left-handed Morgan.
In fact, he was a bit squarish. Suddenly, Shakib asked Kayes to move to deep square leg and the very next delivery had Morgan walking towards the dressing room after Kayes removed him with a forward diving, flat, blinder of a catch.
The fact that Shakib had an intuition about exactly where Morgan was going to hit and the chemistry between the skipper and the bowler was evident enough of Shakib’s coming of age as a captain. Mature, composed and aggressive, he has come a long way and he will have to go a long way for the sake of our cricket. Already we have seen him retaliate in unsuitable fashion. Humility at the age of 23 and the success level of that fortitude will not come easy.
Our cricketers are our pride; be it the current ones who are living the Bangladeshi dream or the old ones who perished dreaming about it. We cannot ignore the fight they put up. Culturally also we need to show respect where it’s due. Windies loss was a shameful one, no denying that. No excuse is acceptable. We were more shattered than angry. Criticism was due and was not to be reacted to. Hopefully, in the future we will be able to handle our success and failure more maturely.
Coming back to the Friday’s game, what impressed me was the inspiration some of our boys radiated. Let’s face it, neither Rubel nor Shafiul are fearsome bowlers. They do not have the fast bowler’s physic or venom. But they sure have the heart of the Royal Bengal Tiger. These two displayed inspired cricket. Bowled out of their skin to restrict the Brits under 230 and send them packing. Razzaque, our Lalla, was a beauty to watch. Here again I must mention Shakib’s captaincy or the sheer brilliance of it.
The English just did not have the altitude. Every time the English worm wanted to go upwards, Shakib stemmed the flow of runs using Razzaque. Sometimes it was Naeem or Shakib himself. It was as if the reins were in Shakib’s hands and he could control it at will. The English-run worm grew but never got the altitude that Strauss was searching for. Otherwise, we could have been looking to defend 280/290. What can I say about the fielding! It was electric. The catching, the diving, the saves – absolutely amazing!
Tamim played a brilliant and responsible inning with his under-appreciated partner Imrul Kayes. Tamim’s stay at the wicket was cut short by a brilliant, unplayable delivery by Bresnan. Until then the local lad played fantastic dominating cricket with beautiful display of stroke play on the on side, which, mind you, is not his bread-and-butter area. He kept on milking the English bowling with boundaries and singles and doubles.
Junaid again was disappointing with his casual approach to running between wickets. Some of the players on the bench are serious contenders for his position. I would like to see Shahriar Nafees play the next match. After Shakib came in and steadied the ship, the victory seemed sealed with a kiss. But that sudden brainwave of Kayes for the second run almost cost us the match. They built a good 77-run partnership but looked a little rusty while negotiating runs for singles and doubles. Shakib, I thought, went out while playing an unnecessary shot. But he did play his part and led from the front, some of the human errors can be excused. Raqibul and Naim both got out to deadly deliveries from Shahzad; not too many batsmen in the world would know how to negotiate those. But these boys need to make some runs and name for themselves. They still look very ordinary.
Mushfiqur Rahim needs to elevate himself to a level where he can be considered a one-day batsman. Right now with a 50-odd strike rate he is not what we need. A brilliant drive through the covers and a catching-practice nudge to the keeper is not what we need from our core middle order. He has had too many matches to average that low. But Mushfiq’s stumping of Prior was really a piece of brilliant presence of mind.
But when Mahmudullah Riad walked in, little did we know that this young man would shoulder all our responsibility with such valour.
Anybody else with Shafiul in the crease and we would have lost it. Riad guided Shafiul ball by ball, he read the bowlers, he created the singles and just refused to accept defeat at that point! This young man will someday lead the team, I hope. Packed stadium abusing you, English bowlers on song and Strauss smelling victory, and in that situation this little cricketer just kept his cool and intelligently negotiated the overs with singles. He never looked shaken, never looked distraught. Well done little champ!
Shafiul walked in like a tiger, went straight to Riad and had determination written all over his face. He played within his strength and limitation, did not try to do too much, batted responsibly while he could have easily gone on hitting like Razzaque and ended up out. And nobody would have blamed him.
To be honest at that point, nobody would have blamed Riad either. Half the crowd was gone. They lost faith. But not those two. A player of Anderson’s calibre does not bowl a nine-ball over at that point of the match if he is not nervous. From their body language, the English read nothing but determination. Shafiul did not slog, he picked his spot and went through with his shots with reasonably well footwork. That six was hit from the sweetest spot of his bat and never looked like falling short. The final Bresnan delivery was cut like cheese, dissecting the point and extra cover fielder perfectly and ironically from Riad’s bat.
The crowd always plays a big role in all our home matches. Our players play for us. As most of us do not go to the stadiums, we do not understand the contribution of the cricket fraternity and the board’s effort to improve cricket. First of all, I have to say the stadium was fabulous and in order. Very comfortable arrangements indeed. I hated walking so long to the stadium but loved walking (read dancing) back! Maybe that needs to be addressed.
Whoever is responsible for the lovely stadium and arrangements please take a bow! Well done. There are Masters of Ceremonies for the World Cup venues this time and also DJs and local cultural artists. If anybody from the BCB is reading this please note: “Change nothing from the England Bangladesh Match”. The DJ knew exactly what to play and when to play. This genius was not randomly playing things, he was working the crowd throughout the match. Very good job! Somebody once told me that an anchor and an MC are not the same; I agree.
An anchor conducts a show and an MC works the audience. Monir Khan Shimul, as the Master of Ceremony, was the lifeline for us at the stadium and was essential for our victory over England. If it was up to me, I would not think of any other MCs for any other Bangladesh match. He worked the crowd every time we lost a wicket. He pumped the stadium with emotion. His lead was to support our boys when we were really low. He never gave up. Be it just normal words of encouragement, be it recital from Nazrul or be it straight forward pleading– he did all that and kept us going.
Lastly, those who left at the fall of the 8th wicket: grow some testicular fortitude. In the army, it’s called desertion, and is usually synonymous with treason. Your team needs you the most when they are down because when they are up the world media is with them. If you can share their joy then you sure as hell have to share their failure and sorrow. Shame on you!
Anyhow, I hope you heard the Tigers roar. Cause the English heard it and so did the rest of the world!
Shamit Mahbub Shahabuddin is in advertising, a cricket enthusiast. He conceptualised and executed the first ever Beach Cricket Competition in Bangladesh.