Bangladesh v Pakistan, Asia Cup final, Mirpur March 21, 2012

The rise of the underdog

In a tournament forever dominated by India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, Bangladesh's rise is remarkable and was almost unthinkable until their win against India last Friday
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The freedom of being an underdog has been Bangladesh's prerogative for a very long time and it will be no different on Thursday when they play second fiddle to Pakistan in the Asia Cup final, their first-ever appearance at such a stage of a major international cricket event. Any team that has a 1-29 overall record against the other will start on the back-foot; in the recent series between the two sides, Pakistan dominated wholly, winning everything and giving the home side a sniff only in the dead-rubber ODI. But this contest now has a new meaning, with a more prestigious trophy on the line.

The most interesting development of the past two weeks has been the hosts' mentality of winning and pushing till the last ball and it will be no different on Thursday. One wouldn't be surprised to learn that Misbah-Ul-Haq's men have competition as far as confidence is concerned.

The fact that there is life left in the Bangladesh team after Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal is testament of the new-found confidence. Mushfiqur Rahim, Nasir Hossain and Mahmudullah have now finished games that were set up by Tamim and Shakib during important chases while the bowling has been well handled by Mashrafe Mortaza and Abdur Razzak, senior men who are always one step away from being vanquished.

The change in attitude apparently began after the defeat to Pakistan in the opening game when they all sat together in the dressing room and discussed how they could cross the final hurdle and be the first to touch the tape. The captain took the lead, in the game against India, while Nasir fulfilled his wish of hitting the winning runs against Sri Lanka.

"I wanted to finish it off with one big blow, but then I thought about the previous games and took control of my emotions," Nasir told ESPNcricinfo. "Somehow I managed to keep my cool and get that ball past the fielder [at mid-on]. I don't know how I managed to play that shot but I just got it done."

"It is not as if I have never experienced winning. With BKSP I have always won, be it tournaments or leagues, but with the Bangladesh team it is quite different. It means a lot more, but I approach all of it in the same vein. I try to stay calm in tough situations."

Anamul Haque has had very little to do in this tournament as the senior batsmen have done their job. But he has enjoyed his time sitting in the dugout, soaking in the atmosphere between dashes to the centre of the Shere Bangla stadium. During the Pakistan game, he apparently thought up a Bangla headline for the next day: "The arrival of Bijoy (his nickname) brings bijoy (victory) to the country." "We didn't win that game so I chucked the idea," Haque said.

The team has also been kept grounded by the William Wallace [Mel Gibson's character in Braveheart] of Bangladesh cricket, Mortaza [he is sometimes called Braveheart]. The spearhead has not only recovered from yet another career-threatening knee injury, he has also kept it tight with the ball despite the loss of pace. His adjustment has been superb and inspiring for the rest of the team who have been subconsciously awaiting his return.

Bangladesh have so far made it to two finals of note in the past 15 years. The first was its historic entry into the 1999 World Cup through the triumph in the 1997 ICC Trophy. That win was the first stepping stone for the country's game and it has not looked back since, though appearances in finals haven't been forthcoming. The other final was the one against Sri Lanka in the January 2009 tri-series where they narrowly lost by two wickets.

The Asia Cup campaign has been magical and hence the underdog claim. In a tournament forever dominated by India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, Bangladesh's rise is remarkable and was almost unthinkable until their win against India last Friday.

And what a bounce-back it has been for Bangladesh. After the team selection mess and the largely negative undertones over the past year, to end an international season on such a note makes one wonder how difficult life would have been for Bangladeshis without this cricket team.

To borrow that line from Moneyball, how can you not be romantic about Bangladesh cricket?

Edited by Abhishek Purohit

Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shaonx on March 23, 2012, 17:12 GMT

    Oh my god, what a final we had so close but yet too far. My word just when you think this match is about to unfold you will immediately be stunned by the never ending twists. All the credit goes to Bangladesh they have really made the Pakistani to toil for this win. However, Bangladesh should be proud of what they have achieved from this tournament and hope to carry on this momentum in the future matches. Although the tournament end in disappointment but I have got a feeling that there is something special waiting for them just round the corner. Well done Bangladesh for the excellent effort throughout the tournament and we are really proud of you. Better luck next time.......

  • irfanmemon on March 22, 2012, 22:43 GMT

    Though Pakistan defended the score in the end it never was in their hands until after the final ball was bowled. Bangladesh did play a good cricket overall and deserve respect. Pakistan can afford to smile a little bit but the serious questions have to be answered about Misbah s place in the team and whether this bowling attack is sufficient to face teams like australia and south africa.

  • irfanmemon on March 22, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    2 down 8 to go.... told u Subhash :) its not India

  • irfanmemon on March 22, 2012, 13:22 GMT

    1 down 9 to go.... consumed almost like 9 overs for 16 only........

  • Surya2012 on March 22, 2012, 12:43 GMT

    EveryBody Rise up oneday ... That means others are not down .. Legends are still Legends

  • irfanmemon on March 22, 2012, 12:39 GMT

    @Subhash may be too early to say that yeah can be said wid indian bwling attack though

  • on March 22, 2012, 12:25 GMT

    Bangladesh will gonna win this final agst Pakistan and lift the Asia Cup

  • denwarlo70 on March 22, 2012, 12:23 GMT

    The Bangladesh cricket team in this Asia Cup brings back sweet memories of our team (Sri Lanka) back in the 90's. They were such a fighting force under Arjuna Ranatunga. I am sad my team did not do well in this tournament but at the same time, I an so happy for Bangladesh as they have been carrying this "Under Dog" tag for way too long and they did not prove to the world they are not but now, I have this gut feeling Bangladesh is a team to recon. I wish them all the best for the on-going final and I hope they will end up on the winning side. A Sri lankan fan

  • irfanmemon on March 22, 2012, 12:19 GMT

    We see once again how the home advantage and the crowd support energizes the spirits of the players to perform well at such level...........

  • on March 22, 2012, 9:17 GMT

    no way BD can be called underdogs any more..............they have much improvement in skill mentality maturity n every other thing u need to win,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,possibly da best team of the tournament

  • Shaonx on March 23, 2012, 17:12 GMT

    Oh my god, what a final we had so close but yet too far. My word just when you think this match is about to unfold you will immediately be stunned by the never ending twists. All the credit goes to Bangladesh they have really made the Pakistani to toil for this win. However, Bangladesh should be proud of what they have achieved from this tournament and hope to carry on this momentum in the future matches. Although the tournament end in disappointment but I have got a feeling that there is something special waiting for them just round the corner. Well done Bangladesh for the excellent effort throughout the tournament and we are really proud of you. Better luck next time.......

  • irfanmemon on March 22, 2012, 22:43 GMT

    Though Pakistan defended the score in the end it never was in their hands until after the final ball was bowled. Bangladesh did play a good cricket overall and deserve respect. Pakistan can afford to smile a little bit but the serious questions have to be answered about Misbah s place in the team and whether this bowling attack is sufficient to face teams like australia and south africa.

  • irfanmemon on March 22, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    2 down 8 to go.... told u Subhash :) its not India

  • irfanmemon on March 22, 2012, 13:22 GMT

    1 down 9 to go.... consumed almost like 9 overs for 16 only........

  • Surya2012 on March 22, 2012, 12:43 GMT

    EveryBody Rise up oneday ... That means others are not down .. Legends are still Legends

  • irfanmemon on March 22, 2012, 12:39 GMT

    @Subhash may be too early to say that yeah can be said wid indian bwling attack though

  • on March 22, 2012, 12:25 GMT

    Bangladesh will gonna win this final agst Pakistan and lift the Asia Cup

  • denwarlo70 on March 22, 2012, 12:23 GMT

    The Bangladesh cricket team in this Asia Cup brings back sweet memories of our team (Sri Lanka) back in the 90's. They were such a fighting force under Arjuna Ranatunga. I am sad my team did not do well in this tournament but at the same time, I an so happy for Bangladesh as they have been carrying this "Under Dog" tag for way too long and they did not prove to the world they are not but now, I have this gut feeling Bangladesh is a team to recon. I wish them all the best for the on-going final and I hope they will end up on the winning side. A Sri lankan fan

  • irfanmemon on March 22, 2012, 12:19 GMT

    We see once again how the home advantage and the crowd support energizes the spirits of the players to perform well at such level...........

  • on March 22, 2012, 9:17 GMT

    no way BD can be called underdogs any more..............they have much improvement in skill mentality maturity n every other thing u need to win,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,possibly da best team of the tournament

  • tauhid_aks on March 22, 2012, 7:30 GMT

    Bangladesh finally getting their act together. Great to see. But where is Sidhu and all other critics of Bangladesh cricket? It must be like a slap in the face.

  • abiindia on March 22, 2012, 7:21 GMT

    i don't think all those two win was meaningful for their skill. they won because the both opponent was not interested in quick reflexion after the long tour. cyclone will come once in a while not frequently, as bangla cricket and soon washed away to back in Dump. watch out in future what would hold for them unless prove a series against test playing opponents...even cricket like ramiz raja also expressed that bangla played well, that means he still doesn't know the cricket skills at all......he is like among the one who look for fascinating cricket like hitting the ball hard. cricket is not how hard you stroke, it is how you make strokes.

  • Shamim_araf on March 22, 2012, 7:16 GMT

    Yesss!!!! At last Dream comes true....Bangladesh will qualify 4 final in Asia Cup.Whether we win or loss no matter but the message is that Bangladesh is another power house 4m Asia in World cricket.So go ahead tigers.....Dreams never end.....

  • on March 22, 2012, 7:14 GMT

    Please don't use this word "underdog" anymore. The time of calling our team an "underdog" has come to an end. So please stop!

  • on March 22, 2012, 6:53 GMT

    First of all i would like to say that don't call them "underdogs" they have beaten many great teams in the past. And i congratulate them for their Team work. Best of Luck for the finals.

  • on March 22, 2012, 6:17 GMT

    just waiting time for our tigers we will be champion

  • crktcrazy_alvi on March 22, 2012, 5:27 GMT

    its bd's time to shine!! if they catnen pull it off they'll b deserving winners!!! coz they then brat every 1 elsE////

  • KiwiRocker- on March 22, 2012, 4:54 GMT

    Well..Whatever happens..India can not win. Tendulya is still thinking that he is at top of his game while Saeed Ajmal made a mockery of him(twice). Tendulya's hundred did cost India the Asia cup. I also can not understand non sensical ICC ranking system. India is not even good enough to be able to be in final of an Asia cup and they are so called flat track world champs..Right now top three ODI teams are: Australia, SA and Pakistan...England has won against Pak but has not been consistent..India on current form should be rated second last...next to Uganda! Win against Pakistan does not mean anything. In sports, win means winning all the way. India lost miserably this season everywhere they played but Indian selectors lack courage to drop failed players like Tendulya...A fine gentleman Rahul Dravid himself decided to retire. One should not expect this from Tnedulya who only cares about his centuries.!

  • gangadhara.addanki on March 22, 2012, 4:08 GMT

    i think there is lot of hype around Bangladesh at the moment . They are able to win just because of second batting advantage in these conditions they own the matches ...still long way to go for Bangladesh

  • on March 22, 2012, 3:40 GMT

    JOY BANGLA! ROAR! If wee keep the performance of the last 3 games up, we should win this. Bangladesh just needs to be patience and not press the panic button under any circumstances whatsoever and this is in the bag =)!

  • on March 22, 2012, 2:50 GMT

    now time to proven us to Bangladesh Cricket Team will done something. before all are thinking we are underdog but now also time to probe TIGER of Bangladesh. Today Loss or Win against Pakistan its does not a matter but we win against India and Srilanka its a big matter. thanks Bangladesh cricket team thanks Akram Khan, thanks Pr. Sheik Hasina also. thanks Shakib-Tamim-Rahim-Nasir-Mortaza for nice play.

  • on March 22, 2012, 2:39 GMT

    ban will be favourite 1day if they maintain thier consistency ..don't show boastness ..that is a sign of devil like India ..be humble when u get sucess ..God loves who is humble

  • luvusachu on March 21, 2012, 23:35 GMT

    Srilanka also had started like this in their early years and go on to win the World Cup.They had some Match winners Like Aravinda, Sanath, Murali and Arjuna. Bangladesh at present have only one who is dependable (Sakib). More of that sort of players means, May be in the near future Bangladesh also have the chance of winning the World Cup.

  • on March 21, 2012, 23:24 GMT

    If it was not for Sachin Tendulkar, Bangladesh would not be in the Final. Little Master wasted so many balls to reach his 100. Even Dhoni said that India was 20 run short. May be we can add this record to Sachin's Name.

  • Bang_La on March 21, 2012, 22:39 GMT

    Can Pakistan please take away Lotus after the series?

  • on March 21, 2012, 22:20 GMT

    Amazing to see Bangladesh play so consistently :). If we beat Pakistan, it will not only bring so much joy into every Bangladeshis lives,but also to the Cricket lovers,because everyone loves an underdog story :D!

  • on March 21, 2012, 21:53 GMT

    Congrats Bangladesh. Not only did you win the key games, what is most important is that you played as a team with the heart and passion that reminds me of how Sri Lanka used to play in the early days in the 90's with similar passion and heart. As a Pakistani fan, this is one of those rare moments when I won't be sad if Pak lost in this final, because above all I love cricket. Good luck to all my Bengali brothers and may the best team win. I'm very happy for you guys and the way Bangladesh performed , it is great for the game of cricket.

  • Andrew_Aung on March 21, 2012, 21:39 GMT

    Great team performance so far, I hope Bangldesh cricket team starts performing consistently and hopefully one day they will be recognized as one of the favorites and not the underdogs.

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  • Andrew_Aung on March 21, 2012, 21:39 GMT

    Great team performance so far, I hope Bangldesh cricket team starts performing consistently and hopefully one day they will be recognized as one of the favorites and not the underdogs.

  • on March 21, 2012, 21:53 GMT

    Congrats Bangladesh. Not only did you win the key games, what is most important is that you played as a team with the heart and passion that reminds me of how Sri Lanka used to play in the early days in the 90's with similar passion and heart. As a Pakistani fan, this is one of those rare moments when I won't be sad if Pak lost in this final, because above all I love cricket. Good luck to all my Bengali brothers and may the best team win. I'm very happy for you guys and the way Bangladesh performed , it is great for the game of cricket.

  • on March 21, 2012, 22:20 GMT

    Amazing to see Bangladesh play so consistently :). If we beat Pakistan, it will not only bring so much joy into every Bangladeshis lives,but also to the Cricket lovers,because everyone loves an underdog story :D!

  • Bang_La on March 21, 2012, 22:39 GMT

    Can Pakistan please take away Lotus after the series?

  • on March 21, 2012, 23:24 GMT

    If it was not for Sachin Tendulkar, Bangladesh would not be in the Final. Little Master wasted so many balls to reach his 100. Even Dhoni said that India was 20 run short. May be we can add this record to Sachin's Name.

  • luvusachu on March 21, 2012, 23:35 GMT

    Srilanka also had started like this in their early years and go on to win the World Cup.They had some Match winners Like Aravinda, Sanath, Murali and Arjuna. Bangladesh at present have only one who is dependable (Sakib). More of that sort of players means, May be in the near future Bangladesh also have the chance of winning the World Cup.

  • on March 22, 2012, 2:39 GMT

    ban will be favourite 1day if they maintain thier consistency ..don't show boastness ..that is a sign of devil like India ..be humble when u get sucess ..God loves who is humble

  • on March 22, 2012, 2:50 GMT

    now time to proven us to Bangladesh Cricket Team will done something. before all are thinking we are underdog but now also time to probe TIGER of Bangladesh. Today Loss or Win against Pakistan its does not a matter but we win against India and Srilanka its a big matter. thanks Bangladesh cricket team thanks Akram Khan, thanks Pr. Sheik Hasina also. thanks Shakib-Tamim-Rahim-Nasir-Mortaza for nice play.

  • on March 22, 2012, 3:40 GMT

    JOY BANGLA! ROAR! If wee keep the performance of the last 3 games up, we should win this. Bangladesh just needs to be patience and not press the panic button under any circumstances whatsoever and this is in the bag =)!

  • gangadhara.addanki on March 22, 2012, 4:08 GMT

    i think there is lot of hype around Bangladesh at the moment . They are able to win just because of second batting advantage in these conditions they own the matches ...still long way to go for Bangladesh