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The Verdict by Anand Vasu
March 17, 2007
There are moments in sport that you don't bargain for, when the euphoria of a great win and the agony of defeat collide, and a large well of emotion implodes. When Bangladesh beat India in spectacular fashion, deflating the high and the hype of the months preceding the World Cup, it was time to cast parochialism aside.
Indian players' houses may be attacked, the knives that have been sharpened for Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid will be driven in and twisted, a feeding frenzy will begin in bloodthirsty quarters. That's the dark side. There is, fortunately a pleasant one. In Bangladesh, all those passionate believers, and even people directly involved in the game, will say, "I told you so", and it would be churlish to deny them that at this time.
What is significant about this day, however, is that it is not quite like February 29, 1996, when West Indies were stunned by Kenya in Poona. It's very different from June 18, 2005, when Australia had the rug pulled out from under them by Bangladesh in Cardiff. Those were very much flashes in the pan, lightning striking. This was no David slaying Goliath, simply a case of a weaker team playing to its potential and a strong team failing to keep to its standards.
Bangladesh have slowly, steadily, doggedly worked at their cricket to the best of their ability for years now, and the fruit of that is this win. But, they have won matches like this so many times now, prompting people to say they have finally arrived. The point is that they have been around for a while now, it's just that not too many have taken note.
Dravid's decision to bat, with the world's best batting line-up - on paper at least - and with Bangladesh lacking a [Michael] Holding or a [Jeff] Thomson, was a fair call. Yet what Bangladesh did have was a sprightly Mashrafe Mortaza running in with superb rhythm and sticking to a plan. They had a Syed Rasel who bowled textbook left-arm seam - bending the ball back in to the right-handed batsmen and having enough control to angle the ball away at will. They had two spinners of genuine quality - a wily veteran of many beatings in Mohammad Rafique and a fearless youngster in Abdur Razzak who dared not merely to toss the ball up but to send down an overspinning arm ball that beat a batsman of Sachin Tendulkar's quality in the air and off the pitch.
Where the inadequacy of one team ended, the beauty of the other came to the fore, making this a game of two halves
What India did not have was respect - for the opposition, for the conditions, or for the game. "Anything can happen", goes the saying. "And sometimes it does." Some batsmen, when out of form, find a variety of ways to be dismissed. Virender Sehwag is the opposite - no matter whom he is facing, in whatever conditions, he gets out in similar fashion. Robin Uthappa, who should have taken the chance to cement his place in the side, whacked a wide one into point's hands as though this was a Sunday afternoon club game. Those dismissals were symptomatic of the Indian team that took the field on the day.
Where the inadequacy of one team ended, the beauty of the other came to the fore, making this a game of two halves. We'd only barely heard of a 17-year-old called Tamim Iqbal; they said he was the hardest hitter of a cricket ball in Bangladesh. Often, that isn't saying much; on the day, it said everything. He walked out to bat without the thought that chasing middling totals is often tricky. He walked out to hit the ball that was hurled at him.
With poise, balance and hand-speed reminiscent of a young Saeed Anwar, Tamim drove on the up with panache and precision, but it was one ball that symbolised what a young talent from a small country brought to the table. After an early assault, Zaheer, unsure what to do, clearly flustered, went round the stumps. Tamim waltzed down the pitch, saw Zaheer adjust his length, cleared his mind, and without the slightest doubt, dispatched - no, launched, or was it arrogantly dismissed - the ball into the stands over long-on.
If Tamim was Bangladesh's belief, Mushfiqur Rahim was the wise old boy of 18, calming the nerves, not looking at the scoreboard and thinking of celebrations, instead playing one ball at a time, the perfect way to approach batting, something very few batsmen manage very few times in an entire career.
India fought, for sure, making Bangladesh work for their win. But it was the erstwhile minnows, Bangladesh, who fought the good fight.
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