Choice of game
I was in Dubai since I have my family here, but more because I have an uncle who understands my love and passion for cricket. Back when I was a teenager, I lived, breathed, and ate cricket. I loved writing about the game and made it to this column a few times as well. This seemed like a good time to connect with that side of myself. Bangladesh have a good record in Asia Cups, with many of them having been played at home. The (in)famous loss in the 2012 final against Pakistan by two runs still hurts Bangladeshi cricket fanatics (and there's many of us). Since then, we have been waiting for Bangladesh to lift the Asia Cup trophy. I was confident we would start off with a bang against Sri Lanka, and I was not disappointed.
The genius that is Mushfiqur Rahim delivered yet again. He was calm while wickets fell at regular intervals. He focused on his batting, and ended with what might be his best performance till date. He started his innings with Bangladesh having lost two wickets in the first over to the experienced Lasith Malinga, who was making a comeback for Sri Lanka. Tamim Iqbal was then forced to retire hurt.
Somebody who didn't get as much praise but played an extremely crucial role was Mohammad Mithun, who joined Mushfiqur at the crease. These two worked the ball around confidently and helped Bangladesh escape from a dire situation. Mushfiqur played the steady hand while Mithun played the new ball as if he felt no pressure, maintaining a strike rate above 80 during his 63.
Coming back to Mushfiqur, he stayed unfazed. He held firm at one end and rotated the strike. Bangladesh didn't let the runs go dry. Mehidy Hasan's 15, Mashrafe Mortaza's 11, and Mustafizur Rahman's 10 all mattered since they allowed Mushfiqur to build his innings. One could say that Mushfiqur should have upped the ante at times but I felt he did the right thing by taking minimal chances. He piled up runs towards the end, and was the last man out with a career-best ODI score of 144. His resilience and creative shots in the death overs showcased his style and technique.
We watched the game with mixed feelings as throughout the first innings the game was in balance. During the game I got to know the unfortunate news that Tamim was ruled out of the rest of the Asia Cup. Then the ninth wicket fell on 229, which, at that point looked far below what should be a fighting score. The man who had been seen wearing a cast in the dressing room just a while back was striding out. I couldn't help but feel chills run down my spine. This man had decided to ignore his pain, his injury and instead walked out to support the man of the moment, redefining the term "give it your all". Tamim displayed a type of sportsmanship that overwhelms people like me by the beauty of sport and cricket.
He faced one ball, defending it using only his right hand perfectly. This act seemed to spark the steadily glowing flame that was Mushfiqur's innings: he brilliantly scored 32 more runs, amassing boundaries and managing to keep the strike on the last ball of the over. While Bangladesh supporters were stunned and overjoyed to see it, I felt Sri Lanka's fielders could have done a tad more. Then again, the ease with which Mushfiqur launched his sixes really makes you think again. Tamim's courage, confidence, and the duty he showed towards his team will surely inspire all those who watched the game.
One thing I would have changed
The stadium was beautiful. It was big but not so big that you felt overwhelmed. The rainbow-coloured lights above the shades made for a great ambience and I watched the match with some of my favourite people. And the result was exactly what I wanted so I really don't have much to change. But if I am allowed to be picky, I would rather have not witnessed the complete misjudgement of what should have been a sitter by Nazmul Islam, reprieving Dasun Shanaka.
It was heartening to see the stands nearly packed for the game. Even though home support for any team has a beauty of its own, you can always appreciate a neutral ground that allows the chance of equal support for both teams. The Sri Lankan fans have a reputation of being enthusiastic, cheery and loud, and they definitely made themselves heard but towards the end I honestly I felt like I was in Bangladesh. The icing on the cake was hearing a Bangla song "Oporadhi" played between the overs. The crowd sang along loudly to the melodious tune which had gone viral a few months back.
Marks out of 10
Doubtlessly a 10/10. From experience I can say that watching a cricket match is enjoyable, even for someone who is not a follower of the sport. A loss for your team will make you sad but the energy of the live game itself makes it a fulfilling experience. This game for me was about having my belief reaffirmed that not only are Bangladesh a team on the rise but one that's taken seriously by opponents. From turning around a dismal start to never really losing the momentum despite the hiccups to demolishing the Sri Lankan batting line-up, Bangladesh played a victorious brand of cricket. At the end of the day, that's what you expect from a world-class team. However, it's going to take me a bit of time to adjust to the reality that the days of us being the underdog are long gone.
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