Australia v Bangladesh, NatWest Series, Cardiff

Earning the world's respect

Rabeed Imam basks in the afterglow of Bangladesh's historic triumph over Australia in the NatWest Series

Rabeed Imam

June 19, 2005

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Bangladesh struck out with freedom and joy to defeat Australia © Getty Images
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There are billboards that can be spotted all over Dhaka showing a relaxed Dav Whatmore holding a credit card of a certain bank. The caption says, 'What more do you need?' Well, if it was about convincing the cricket world that Bangladesh deserve a spot in the elite category, then the events of June 18 have gone some distance in making a point.

Hopefully, the ICC will now show some common sense and dispense with a ranking system that does not tell even half the truth. Kenya and the present Zimbabwe side simply do not have the right to stay above Bangladesh. Kenya's World Cup heroics happened two years ago. Let it remain as history. Zimbabwe's records over the last couple of years do not measure up to that of Bangladesh during the same period.

Too many people judge Bangladesh on pre-conceived, often misinformed, ideas without digging a little deeper. Perhaps that also works in Bangladesh's favour as opposing teams are not remotely aware of the sting they possess. With the conquest of Australia, Bangladesh have won five out of their last nine one-day internationals and the prey list include both finalists of the 2003 World Cup.

Each of those five victories have been achieved through clinical execution of the term professionalism, and look no further than the Cardiff epic for confirmation of that. They were also ruthlessly single-minded about the job on hand - exactly like the model the Australian team follows, and the rest of the world is trying to emulate. Two years ago, a Bangladesh side would have been content in just playing out the 50 overs against the world champions, not this lot. And they picked the right time and the right team to topple.

Winning against a high-flying England side would have been fantastic but the impact would not have been as great. Australia are clearly the ultimate benchmark and by outplaying them, Bangladesh have sent a message - never underestimate raw and uninhibited talent. The Bangladesh team had and still has utmost respect for the Australians. But during their 2003 tour Down Under, they understood that the McGraths and the Gillespies were as human as they were.

Yesterday, Mortaza and Tapash Baisya gave them the little incentive to transform dreams into belief while Mohammad Ashraful, Habibul Bashar and Aftab Ahmed turned that into reality. No surprises there, if you know what goes through the minds of the current Bangladesh cricketers.

Ashraful is often more at war with himself than against opposing bowlers. If he is in the correct frame of mind, he is capable of ruling any attack in the world. The hundred he scored showed the real Ashraful, the insipid dismissals on the tour prior to that was the work of the ghost he just can't get rid of. Aftab does not give a damn about who he is playing against. To him, taking on Harmison or McGrath is no different than tackling the quickie from the other neighbourhood on the streets of Chittagong. But there is no arrogance there, just an honest faith in own ability and characteristic indifference to aura or reputation.

No bowling line-up has managed to restrict Bashar endlessly. Sooner or later, he has found a way to get on top and he has never been concerned with big names. Ask Mohammad Rafique who he hit for a six at the Oval and he would struggle to remember the name. Mortaza is a meticulous planner. We all know how McGrath targets one batsman in every series. What we don't know is Mortaza does the same and more often than not, gets his man. Just ask Rahul Dravid and Graham Thorpe.

These are just a few names that represent the attitude of the present day Tigers, who are not afraid of anybody. India and Australia have found that out to their horror. Soon it could be the turn of England, who knows? A bit of sunshine, a back to the wall situation and this could happen again. Interestingly, reaction to Bangladesh's triumphs also signifies the changing times.

Sure there were people jumping on the streets in Dhaka around mid-night on Saturday. Jubilant youths were spraying paint on passing cars without the drivers minding too much. A profusely sweating teenager was claiming with tears of joy in his eyes that the Tigers' ODI shirt he was wearing was a gift from Mortaza. Ashraful's humble abode was being mobbed by well-wishers and regular television programmes were giving way to impromptu bulletins and replays of Bangladesh's greatest cricketing moment.

But, the scenes were not any more elaborate than the outpouring of passion experienced after the win against India or the Test series victory over Zimbabwe. Bangladeshis it seems are getting used to winning.

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