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Bangladesh is apparently on the wrong end of eligibility when it comes to awarding the benefit of doubt
March 10, 2006
Normally you would find him blowing a whistle and waving the national flag with passionate excitement, stirring the crowd in the stands and egging the Bangladesh team on. But on Wednesday, Mahbub Hamid Tara was sitting quietly at a vantage point surrounded by family members, maybe offering up a silent prayer. Any moment, his son would be going out to bat and Tara's eyes were not the only ones brimming with gratification.
His son, Mushfiqur Rahim, is the first international cricketer to come out of Bogra and this was only his second Test since his baptism of fire at Lord's in May last year. The occasion coincided with the local stadium's debut as cricket's 92nd Test venue. Already the Shahid Chandu Stadium - with its spacious clean lounges, neat galleries, spongy green perfectly trimmed outfield and an artificial mound similar to the party-stands in the Caribbean - is being regarded as the best ground in the country and on Wednesday the locals wanted to celebrate another symbol of pride in the form of Rahim.
For the first 17 balls he faced, there wasn't a warning sign anywhere but the 18th spelt doom. Muttiah Muralitharan pitched one on the middle stump, Rahim expected it to come in but the ball spun away and only the pad prevented it from hitting off. As Rahim trudged back to the dressing-room, Tara's disappointment was hidden behind the grey beard and the consolation that Murali had done the same to many others.
Muralitharan takes wickets in heaps against every opposition but when it comes to Bangladesh, he is absolutely phenomenal. In 12 innings against Bangladeshi batsmen, he has 50 scalps and every time Bangladesh have looked like making a fight of it, he has emerged as the spoilsport. So the thoughts of Murali haunts and taunts them, no matter how hard they try to shrug it off.
"He'll take wickets, that's a certainty," summed up Habibul Bashar, the Bangladesh captain. "He has done it against bigger teams. It is a matter of how difficult we can make it for him to take those wickets. The longer he is kept at bay the better it is for our chances." So it's Murali against Bangladesh and no-one is contesting that belief. The problem is his supposed charm through which he earns gifts, like the wicket of Shahriar Nafees - caught at mid-off attempting to swing it over midwicket 15 minutes before lunch on the third day, at a time when his team was still 35 runs from making Sri Lanka bat again. A moment's indiscretion, some would say, but enough to destroy the balance and rhythm of an innings.
At the top end of the VIP stands, Rahim's family sat behind a massive Bangladesh flag. They had watched how Shahadat Hossain Rajib elevated himself and the Bangladesh pace attack to a different level. Pace, hostility, heart - and all that while ignoring muscle pain and a hurting ankle. They expected something similar from Rahim. They didn't get it, because Bangladesh is apparently on the wrong end of eligibility when it comes to awarding the benefit of doubt.
Rahim's bat never touched the ball but the sound of it hitting the ground was evidence enough for umpire Hariharan Krishna to give him out caught behind. And HH was at it again when he wasted no time in raising the finger against Bashar, who was in full flow and staging a fightback with Mohammad Rafique. The reverse-swinging ball from Lasith Malinga was always going down leg and that opinion didn't need a confirmation from the TV replay.
"I have some very strong feelings not only about this match but the entire series. But unfortunately I can not say anything publicly. But I will convey that through the proper channel," said Bangladesh's coach, Dav Whatmore, when prompted to say something at least about the umpiring that has intervened to put an end to Bangladesh's fight, when Murali or insensible batting hadn't. Alok Kapali, Khaled Mashud, Bashar, Rahim, Nafis Iqbal, the list of sufferers is too tall to ignore.
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