ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
Bangladesh v England, World Cup 2011, Chittagong
Bangladesh finally answer their nation's call
These were the scenes Bangladesh needed after last week's embarrassment. These were the scenes the team representing some of the most passionate fans in the world needed
Sidharth Monga in Chittagong
March 11, 2011
Bulu makes sure the photographers and cameramen are provided cables, internet and all that sort of stuff during matches in Bangladesh. That's his official duty. What endears him to travelling journalists, though, is that, out of hospitality and generosity, he makes sure the reporters get water when water and shade from sun are at a premium during the teams' training sessions. Every time he sees you at the ground, he asks you if you have had your meal. If you haven't, he does something about it. He does the same for the Bangladesh players too. He loves his team.
Bulu wasn't his jovial self tonight, however. Bangladesh were going down; it wasn't a meek surrender like the one against West Indies, but they were fighting and going down nonetheless. At 169 for 8, they were down for the count. But in the next 56 deliveries, they not only beat the count, they waded in with counter-blows too. Moments after Mahmudullah had driven Tim Bresnan for the match-winning four, Bulu came back to full life. He went on a victory lap. The whole groundstaff followed him. The crowd, the faithful who had stayed to the bitter end, ran towards the front rows. Bulu jumped boundary boards and hugged the photographers. He came up and hugged us in the press box. Bulu is just one of the millions who will be behaving this way tonight up and down the country, hugging delighted strangers on the street.
Sport's ability to uplift can never be overstated. These were the scenes this World Cup desperately needed. These were the scenes Bangladesh needed after last week's embarrassment. These were the scenes the team representing some of the most passionate fans in the world needed. The country that opened its arms to the World Cup needed this kind of backing from its team too.
Matches, though, are not won by passionate fans, although they play their part at times. Matches are not won because countries need it. Matches are won by deserving teams, and tonight Bangladesh were nothing if not deserving.
Just imagine the kind of pressure this young team was under. They had just been bowled out for 58, their lowest-ever total. They had former players on their backs. They also knew that their passionate followers were no different to many Indian and Pakistani fans. They knew their houses could be attacked if they lost. They would have heard authorities trying to sell the theory that the stones thrown at the West Indies bus were actually meant for the Bangladesh bus, as if in a way, it was the done thing.
Keeping all that in mind, and also Bangladesh's position in the points table in a home World Cup where they should be coming close to making the quarter-finals, if not actually doing so, this has to be one of Bangladesh's most important victories of all time. Before the World Cup started, Mashrafe Mortaza was at the Bangladesh nets. He was discussing the team's chances with a few journalists, and made a very pertinent observation. The bigger sides, he said, can manage to win through one-man shows, but for Bangladesh to win, they would need contributions from a larger group of players. Up until this game, those words have come true: except for the game against Ireland, where the bowlers all chipped in, Bangladesh just hadn't been able to put together a cluster of meaningful performances.
Today, however, they were vintage Bangladesh - the good Bangladesh that is. None of their bowlers bowled badly. There was no weak link. How James Anderson would have wished to say the same of England. They weren't at their best in the field, but Mushfiqur Rahim showed amazing presence of mind to stump Matt Prior. Even when England revived with a strong stand between Eoin Morgan and Jonathan Trott, Bangladesh didn't look lost. Shakib Al Hasan was proactive. He saw Morgan was having little trouble with spin, and brought Rubel Hossain back. Mushfiqur might not have held onto the edge he produced first ball, but Bangladesh were on the ball mentally, unlike in the game against India.
When the Batting Powerplay was called, Shakib took the responsibility himself. Tactically he might not be the best leader, but Shakib has a big heart. With him was the most experienced bowler in the side, Abdur Razzak. Between them they knew their fields well, and bowled exactly what they wanted to. But that was the easy part. Getting their bowling to operate as a unit has been the basis of Bangladesh's improved fortunes in recent months.
It's the batsmen who have disappointed more often. Tonight, however, they showed they had learned their lesson. It was a massive improvement. Except for Tamim Iqbal, who has licence to play extravagantly, nobody went for the adventurous shots. The running between the wickets, like the fielding, wasn't great, but the batsmen were not melting in the heat, they genuinely wanted to outlast the tough times. Even when three wickets fell in a hurry after Tamim's start, you could sense this was different from their batting efforts against Ireland and West Indies.
Even if they had lost tonight, Bangladesh could have held their heads high. They had chosen some seriously good deliveries to get out to - particularly those bowled by Ajmal Shahzad. But all the same, holding their heads high and accepting the valiant losses is not good enough anymore. More is expected of Bangladesh now. That more includes winning in pressure situations too. In Shafiul Islam and Mahmudullah, they found that more tonight.
When they wake up tomorrow, two days before their game against Netherlands, Bangladesh will realise having one such night is not enough anymore. Victories such as these merely increase the expectation from supporters such as Bulu. But they will also realise that if they refuse to give up more often, like they did tonight, they will have more such nights. Two more in quick succession will be welcome in this World Cup.
|Comments have now been closed for this article
Modern Masters: Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar discuss Jacques Kallis' terrific record in all conditions
Seventy-nine-year-old Ian Craig talks about the "next Bradman" tag, and how Jeff Thomson caused him to retire young
Numbers Game: In the last three-and-half-years, India's opening combinations have averaged 18 per partnership overseas, with only one 50-plus stand in 35 attempts
Diary: Our correspondent makes his way from Trent Bridge to Nuncargate to find out more about one of England's most fearsome fast bowlers. By Sidharth Monga
Tour diary: Another eventful stint in the province
A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches
Bide your time, put your body behind each delivery, and play with the batsman's mind