ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Bangladesh v Ireland, World Cup 2011, Group B, Mirpur

Tigers let themselves roar

Bangladesh celebrated their victory against Ireland as though they'd won more than one cricket match, but the significance went beyond a single result

Sidharth Monga in Mirpur

February 25, 2011

Comments: 67 | Text size: A | A

Press conferences in today's media-trained sport don't usually give much of an insight into the players' mindset. There's generally too much of 'the right areas' and 'playing the ball on its merits'. For the last two weeks or so, Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh's young captain, tactically not one of the best going around but a brave man for his age, has been trying to cover himself in a veil of dispassion. All his press conferences in the build-up to the World Cup - its first match, its first match's aftermath, its second match - have been all about disciplines and basics and the like.

After they finally won one game, however, Shakib, and his two team-mates, Tamim Iqbal and Shafiul Islam, lifted that veil. Minutes after they had gone on a victory lap - yes, after having beaten Ireland - the three came to address the media. Shakib being the captain, Tamim inexplicably being Man of the Match, and Shafiul because Tamim and Shakib thought he should have been Man of the Match.

Shakib's answers today went past two lines for the first time in the last two weeks. Tamim, like a back-bencher in a class, hid behind an energy-drink bottle and kept making fun of whatever he was making fun of. Whenever one person answered a question, the other two would be busy whispering jokes to each other. The national cricketers were back to being kids again; they aren't too much older in reality, either. Many jokes were cracked in Bangla in those 20 minutes. This press conference, the victory lap, said a lot about the release they felt.

"It wasn't really a victory lap," Shakib said. "Just showed our feelings. They [the people] have supported us throughout the two matches. Even the time we come for practice, people are on the streets. They just wait for us and wish us good luck. I thought it was our responsibility to show some respect to them as well."

More than respect and feelings, Bangladesh now knew they could show people their faces. That will be a big relief for a group that can't be the best team to support: they give up chases once Tamim gets out, and they often bat first without plan or brains. Yet they have had this unimaginably crazy support for the last two weeks.

And then there has been pressure of having made unpopular and stern, but well-meaning, decisions. It's no secret that the team management has put its foot down in leaving Mashrafe Mortaza out of the side for the World Cup, because of his fitness problems, against the wishes of those in the board who like to use the popular sentiment. Then they dropped Mohammad Ashraful, again the galleries' hero who disappoints much too often, for the first game. These are not decisions typical of Bangladesh cricket. The other day Shakib was asked in a press conference, "It seems you don't like seniors. Why?"

All that, combined with the beyond-saturation coverage of the World Cup on TV and in newspapers, plays on players' minds. When you have a game like Bangladesh had against India - don't be fooled by the 283 runs they scored, not for one ball did they look like they were competing - you perhaps start thinking of repercussions too. Repercussions, should you not do well, happen in the subcontinent at the end of every World Cup.

A lot was pent up coming into this game against Ireland. The kids had looked old and rugged against India. They badly needed to express themselves, there had been too much of right areas, the Bangladeshi cricketers needed to let themselves go. Out came a trigger-happy batting side. All they managed was mindless cricket. It reminded you of what Dav Whatmore said of their cricket when he left them four years ago.

"The lack of basic knowledge is a bit staggering really," Whatmore had said then. "When these young cricketers were growing up in youth cricket, they weren't told about the basics of cricket." They were at it again. When they knew 250 would be a daunting total on this slow and low track, they kept getting out to adventurous shots, worst of them being sweeps from well outside off, against the turn of a left-arm spinner. Whether it was pressure or lack of cricketing sense, this was the crazy Bangladesh we know: one-fifths individual brilliance, four-fifths collective implosion.

In their defence, though, they came out a brave side. That's their strength. When they have team-mates by their side, when they can let their army of spinners apply a choke hold to the opposition, when most importantly they have 25,000 behind them in the stadium, and many more thousands waiting outside.

They dived, they caught, they bowled stump to stump. They celebrated every Ireland wicket - batsmen with little experience of playing on low and slow tracks - as if they had just claimed Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara. Ashraful, who by his own standards managed a stunningly poor shot to get out for 1, reacted as if he had scored a goal in a World Cup final when he dismissed Andrew White, who didn't look at home against spin bowling of any kind.

It might have put neutrals off, but Bangladesh needed to let it out. Defeat to Ireland would have crushed them. The tension was getting released with every step they took towards a first win. It culminated in that victory lap - not really a victory lap, Shakib will point out. Now that they have bitten this bullet, they should not be so muddled in their heads in the coming games, but if their batsmen are as suicidal as they were today, they will find teams who are not as obliging as Ireland were.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 67 
Posted by   on (February 28, 2011, 9:00 GMT)

I think it's unfair to call-out Ashraful after he underperformed w/batting in 1 or 2 game, to be fair he did make up for his mishap with the batting while fielding/bowling. I'd love to see Mashrafi back ( but he is injured ) , if Ashraful underforms in next two matches - sure make the change but right now making the call would be quite unfair.

Posted by fanacric on (February 27, 2011, 9:44 GMT)

@ r0ketman ............I strongly agree with you man .........good bash up!

Posted by taufque_atique on (February 27, 2011, 9:40 GMT)

if the Bangladeshi batsmen play sensibly & wicket plays according to our strength,then west indies,england & south africa better beware of the tigers.how shakib can be termed tactically not good after such a great use of Shafiul???

Posted by Nafis on (February 27, 2011, 8:17 GMT)

Yes we have places to improve. But I'm fully vonfident that we will put up some special shows in the upcoming weeks. And eagerly waiting for a 'PRAISING" article from Mr. Mongia....I know its gonna come within two weeks....

Posted by me_rony on (February 27, 2011, 7:48 GMT)

Ofcourse the expectations are high, but 205 was always enough on this sort of track. The question was, can they keep their nerves. In fact, this is not the lowest total Bd defended in Mirpur. They Scored 175 and bowled out New Zealand for 171 in the last bilateral series. Hail Tigers !

Posted by aalkafi on (February 27, 2011, 3:02 GMT)

Muhammad Najeeb! so you got a solution to get BD to the semis, just kick Ash out and bring Mash in! I wish this would be this easy. Lets beat ND and WI first. As far as Ashraful is concerned my view is either don't take him or if you do then don't send him at no 7; send him at 4 or 5 slot. The reason being is he is by far the most talented batsman we have ever had and unfortunately he has not been performing at all. I think he has confidence problem and when he is picked he is under pressure to perform. So you send him in the death overs when he has no time to settle and has to slog. Any one can get out while slogging. Send him in the middle overs; let him settle down with few singles. As he grows more confident he can start playing his natural game. For Bangladesh to go far into the tournament we need a few batsmen who can score high 50s and 100s. In the current team Tamim, Shakib & a rejuvenated Ash are the only players that have the calibre. Others are good for 20/40 runs.

Posted by   on (February 26, 2011, 21:42 GMT)

I had my doubts yesterday but no question about it- Shakib Al Hassan is the best captain Bangladesh ever had! Captain Fantastic, even when he has a poor day with his batting and an average day with his bowling- he can make it all up with his inspirational captaincy! Arguably the best captain in the World Cup so far! Anyone who suggests Tamim or Mashrafe should replace him is just playing politics or operating out of personal bias! Bangladesh is not half the team it is with Shakib as captain!

Posted by   on (February 26, 2011, 19:47 GMT)

kick ashraful. take mortaza ... and we can go even beyond quarters.

Posted by   on (February 26, 2011, 19:47 GMT)

Hi all, I am a new one in this thread.. just to say a few words.. there is no point of comparing two cricket teams like India and Bangladesh.. there has to be subtle differences between them and there is.. but it is evident now that Bangladesh now believe that they can win.. whether it is against Ireland or in a slow pitch like this.. lets celebrate the moment :)

Posted by   on (February 26, 2011, 19:17 GMT)

I witnessed one of the best matches in dhaka and the after celebration was absolutely crazy!! Yes, we still believe and will never stop believing........We took a leap of faith!!!

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