ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
World Cup 2011
Shafiul the man for big moments
Bangladesh had thrown away a chance of a victory. The crowd were leaving stadium. Then one man played the innings of his young life
Sidharth Monga in Chittagong
March 12, 2011
In their hour of need at this World Cup, Bangladesh have had a 21-year-old, unassuming, short-for-a-fast-bowler fast bowler rise a notch above the rest and keep them alive in the tournament. However, the Man-of-the-Match adjudicators have, on both occasions, overlooked Shafiul Islam.
Against Ireland, defending 205 on a good surface, when Shafiul produced swing in his 4 for 21, which included the dangerous Kevin O'Brien's wicket, Tamim Iqbal bagged the match award for his flashy 44 and a crucial catch. When he produced the runs against England, 24 off 24 balls from No. 10, to fashion an unlikely win the more orthodox 60 from Imrul Kayes was the favourite.
Thankfully the Pink City talent hunt didn't miss Shafiul five years ago. The two traditional feeders to this Bangladesh team are Bangladesh Krida Shikha Protishthan (BKSP) and the various coaching centres run by former cricketers, but Shafiul has come through the alternate route. It has been a relatively quick route, but one that has called for hard work.
Catching the eye of Hannan Sarkar, the Bangladesh batsman, at the talent hunt was just a start. Coming from Bogra to Dhaka was more difficult. The initial days were spent in dorms at clubs, but that was a small price to pay. That he had the natural ability to swing the ball made him a star in domestic cricket, and soon injuries to the international fast bowlers fast-tracked him to top-flight cricket.
A clear head and an ability to learn fast have made Shafiul the team management's favourite. They backed him even after he went for 69 off seven overs against India in the World Cup opener. They remember how he bowled that slower ball to Jonathan Trott at Bristol. Trott was single-handedly killing Bangladesh's dream of a famous win, and Shafiul produced that delivery with seven required off four balls. The mind and heart were both working at a time when both tend to malfunction. No, he wasn't Man of the Match even then.
"Self-belief is the key," Shafiul said of this habit of proving to be at the game-changer at crucial moments. In tough times, and times have been tough for Bangladesh of late, Shafiul is one of the few players in the team whose game doesn't look affected. The nerves from being under attack from Virender Sehwag are gone.
Shakib Al Hasan might not have been that confident of Shafiul's batting against the quicks, but his partner-in-crime last night, Mahmudullah, trusted him. "In domestic cricket, he has faced many fast bowlers, and has batted very well against them," Mahmudullah said. "It was a matter of time he delivered in international cricket too."
The turnaround began against spin, though, when Shafiul swung the bat and took a four and a six off Graeme Swann in the 42nd over. That's when Mahmudullah started believing. The momentum had changed and only sensible batting was required. Both of them found enough of that mix of sense and belief to take Bangladesh home to what was a one of their most important wins.
"It was very important to come back if we wanted to go to second round, and also we had to prove ourselves after the West Indies match," Shafiul said. That match award can't be too far off if he keeps keeping his cool when the heat is on.
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