Soumya graduates to the next level

Soumya Sarkar's longest ODI innings before today was 58-balls long. Today, once he survived that period, he knew he had to make it big

Tamim Iqbal smiled as he turned away from Soumya Sarkar. The two Bangladesh batsmen had met in the middle after Soumya had jabbed Umar Gul over midwicket in the fourth over. He had mistimed the previous ball through the same area for a boundary but this one had come off the middle. Tamim's reaction suggested just that.
Soumya might have been worried after making just 20 and 17 in the first two matches. But he passed through his danger period in this game with ease. When he played the 37th delivery in this game, a single down to mid-off, it became his longest innings of the ODI series.
After being dropped in the 18th over by wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan, when he played the next ball - the 59th, it was his longest ODI innings. By this point he knew he had to stay, make it big. That's what Tamim bhai told him.
"I played today like I always do," Soumya said. "I slowed down in the forties. I made fresh plans after talking to Tamim bhai. He told me, 'Make it big and stay till the end. Finish it, and you will see the pleasure will be something else'."
"I was getting out in 20s and 30s. I was thinking about this. I was concerned. I talked to my seniors who told me to play my way. When I first saw the score, I was on 18. I thought that it had been done smoothly so I didn't do anything differently today. I just started and ended the job."
Soumya sped away after his fifty, which came off 63 balls. The next 50 came off 31 balls, with five fours and three sixes. The hundred came off a six too, pulled into the deep midwicket boundary after which he cramped a little and then celebrated.
"It is a habit. I don't celebrate too much when I do anything big," he said. "The shot I played it, didn't go far and I didn't understand if it would go all the way. Apart from that I had cramped immediately after hitting that shot.
"When I saw that it was six, I think the cramp went away. At the end of the day, the celebration I did was from my heart," he said.
His final act was to lay into Umar Gul in the 38th over, after he was dropped in the same bowler's previous over at deep square-leg. After Mushfiqur gave him strike, Soumya clattered it past the bowler, struck a majestic pull shot and then hammered one over long-on.
Soumya is on five months into his international career, and he has now played ten ODIs. He was Bangladesh's most impressive newcomer in the World Cup, although he struck only a single fifty in the competition. But Soumya's game never wavered; his aggressive shotmaking was the biggest gain.
Soumya feels that the support of the dressing-room, particularly his captain, made a huge difference to his outlook before and during the World Cup. He is reaping the rewards now.
"My captain told me from the very beginning to play my way," he said. "Play freely, don't be afraid of anything. I was successful because the seniors supported me so much. I have only tried to be myself. The six World Cup innings went well for me. I tried my best in those innings and though I couldn't make them big, it helped my confidence."
When he had ended the innings and taken the short victory lap thanking the full house in Mirpur, Soumya looked lost momentarily in the crowd that gathered in front of the dressing-room. He had just completed the interview with the broadcasters. But he towered over the rest around him, and when he was done with the photos and the hugs, he bowed his head as he strode back to the Bangladesh dressing-room.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84