ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
Bangladesh v South Africa, Group B, World Cup 2011, Mirpur
The great Bangla tragedy
Bangladesh's performance in Mirpur seemed to follow the script of a Shakespeare tragedy, with unfulfilled ambition, revenge and eventually the fall of would-be heroes
Firdose Moonda in Mirpur
March 19, 2011
Shakespeare would have been proud of this tragedy. There was unfulfilled ambition, revenge, inner turmoil and death, not of anyone, but of a dream.
At the end, the Bangladesh vision lay lifeless on the Shere Bangla field. The supporters had abandoned them, some leaving when the early dents were made in the batting line-up and the rest jumping ship near the end. The play wasn't worth watching anymore and they didn't care what happened to the hero Shakib Al Hasan. He was the protagonist and we all know what happens to them in Shakespeare's scripts.
When the curtain opened, the scene that rolled out had the makings of a horror show. The Bangladesh fast bowlers were feeding Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith some juicy deliveries. Full tosses, balls pitched on leg stump, short and wide stuff, and there was no stopping the opening pair. Bangladesh allowed Smith, who had been in scratchy form in the tournament, to plant some roots and settle. They gave Amla the stage to continue growing his stature as one of the batsmen of the tournament, and Bangladesh's woes may have grown even more had they been allowed to continue.
There was a twist in the plot, though. Abdur Razzak, Naeem Islam, Mahmudullah and Shakib did what they did to South Africa in the 2007 World Cup in Guyana - tied them up. Although they were not running the same kind of strangling circles as they did on that day, they still managed to pull the run-rate back enough for 250 to look like a reasonable amount of runs to restrict South Africa to.
Of course, the South Africa batsmen were part of the play too and they had some acting to do themselves. Jacques Kallis brought up his half-century almost unnoticed, and Faf du Plessis was able to craft his character for the third time in this World Cup. du Plessis has been able to show the maturity that many from his domestic franchise knew he had all along, against India, Ireland and again today. South Africa's middle order, still relatively untested, may need a few more of these situations before they start to be considered as threatening as the bowling attack, but du Plessis will be central to that.
The Bangladesh bowlers would have never seen him before and it showed. They bowled to him as South Africa bowled to Mohammad Ashraful in Guyana in that World Cup - as though he was too unknown a quantity for them to have done much homework on. They batted in the same fashion against Lonwabo Tsotsobe, although they had seen him on during South Africa's A tour early last year.
What really happened is that Bangladesh hadn't rehearsed their lines properly, hadn't put enough research into the South Africa players; maybe because they didn't expect them to field the side that they ended up fielding. Once Tsotsobe had set them back significantly, the lines that they were struggling to remember were gone.
There was no recovery. The fans seemed to know that before anyone else and that may have been why they started pouring out. Shakib tried to prompt a comeback, that gentle reminder of how things should be, and he had four beautiful boundaries, but his performance alone would never be enough. Smith has said that South Africa were on no revenge mission; but the way they unleashed the pain on Bangladesh told a different story. It meant that there was no room for any of the ambition Bangladesh had harboured to peep through.
This game alone may not have been the vehicle to fulfill Bangladesh's dream but because of the results of the past few weeks - the loss to West Indies and then the West Indies loss to England - everything eventually hung on beating South Africa. Maybe the end wasn't too painful because beating the team that has looked strongest in this tournament would be a tough ask. It may have made the final act easier to swallow.
Shakib was too traumatised to be able to think about the way forward, but Smith had a suggestion, although it is not positive. He thinks there that there is still a long way to go before the script can be revised. "The challenge will be to create consistency," he said. '"They need to start learning to win." It may be as difficult as learning their lines but they've got four years to practise.
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