Bangladesh’s tunnel at the end of the light

Nasir Hossain, Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan
Bangladesh’s players, from left to right, Nasir Hossain, Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan react after losing against India in their ICC World Twenty20 2016 cricket match in Bangalore, India, Wednesday, March 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

In the December of 1971, Pakistani troops gave up their hold of the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka and the Republic of Bangladesh was born, the bloody war aided by Indian troops. The country’s shift from dictatorship to democracy in 1991 coincided with India’s shift from a closed economy to one that was forced to reform if it was to avoid certain economic catastrophe.

The cricketing journeys of the countries have danced to a different beat. By the time Bangladesh came into its own, India was already a superpower in cricket, sitting from its throne and dictating how world cricket was supposed to be run.

In 2007, the tables were hopelessly turned when they handed India a thrashing in the first match of the World Cup, a defeat that would come back to haunt them when they were sent back home in a week.

In 2012, Sachin Tendulkar clawed his way to finally get his 100th 100 in Dhaka. It would be the last ODI match he would play. What was interesting was that the newspapers the next focused on the achievement instead of the fact that India lost the match to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is treated like someone whom people refuse to believe has grown up. Like those annoying people who still see you as a kid and pull your cheeks and speak to you like you’re still in 4th grade and wonder why you don’t respond to them anymore.

Saturday’s match against Pakistan was billed as the marquee clash and given the privileged Saturday night billing. A night when people stocked up their booze cabinets and pubs made a lot of money. Barring Mohammad Amir’s initial burst, the match was a damp squib to say the least. Wednesday’s clash against Bangladesh turned out to be the marquee one and the most exciting by far in the World Cup.

Bangladesh has grown up. They don’t like to be treated like kids anymore and have their cheeks pulled.

Though the team is still some distance away from being a test side to reckon with, their strides in the shorter formats have taken the other countries by surprise.

Wednesday night was no different.

India was on the precipice of being knocked out of the tournament, one they are the favorites to win. Losing the first match badly in any tournament always finds a way to come back and bite you in the back and India know this too well.

A clammy night at the Chinnaswamy stadium saw a match that swung worse than a yo-yo on red bull.

India’s batsmen never really got off to a flyer and settled for a relatively modest 146. But this was Bangladesh.

Memories of 2007 began to resurface. Could they do it to us, again? Twice? That too in front of the home crowd.

The match will be remembered for many things, but it the final over is what will be searched for on youtube and played on loop by news channels. It is the final over that dominated dominate office chatter. It is the final over that plunged one country into darkness from seeming light and another from light into darkness.

Bangladesh’s new found confidence came to the fore in the way they began their chase. Tamim Iqbal smacked the first ball for four. He smashed the fifth ball back to Nehra, someone who isn’t in the side for his quick reflexes or his fielding. Dropped.

It was one of those matches that had seemingly found an unlucky mascot, Jasprit Bumrah. After already having claimed Mithun in his first over, Ashwin’s second over gave the side another breaktrough. Well, almost. Tamim Iqbal got the leading edge and the ball seemed as if it would touch the sky. Jasprit Bumrah might have been visualizing the celebrations. Instead, the ball slipped through his fingers.

That dropped chance set the tone for the match. It was a match of many almosts.

He almost took the catch.They almost won the match. 

A dropped catch opens a wound. It is something that needs quick redressal lest it fester and become something more serious. Bumrah wasn’t a fortunate patient. In his next over, he went for 4 boundaries. Tamim Iqbal made Bumrah pay with interest for the dropped catch.

Everything seemed to be running away from India. The match, the chances, common sense, hope. Everything.

Tamim Iqbal’s stumping offered some relief to the Indians but the scales were tilted in favour of the Bangladeshis. He came down to smack Jadeja out the park and missed the ball completely.

Then came another almost moment. Bowling his first over, Suresh Raina bowled a quick one down the leg side. Sabbir Rahman tried to flick it but missed. Dhoni took the bails off in a flash and appealed half halfheartedly. The replays showed MS Dhoni had taken off the bails  the same fraction of a second that Iqbal’s foot was in the air.

He was almost inside the crease

Jadeja then dismissed Mortaza. Shakib Al Hasan threatened to take the match away from India when R Ashwin negated that threat. If he had stayed on, the match would have been over very quickly.

Then came the passage of play that everyone will relive for sometime.

Cut to the penultimate over. Jasprit Bumrah, who had up to that point had a very forgettable match was given the task of making victory a very tough task for the Bangladeshis. The penultimate over produced all of six runs, a masterpiece in the circumstances. The pats on the back and the smiles were back.

Jasprit Bumrah almost had a very shitty day.

When too many people give you advice, rest assured none of it will be taken. Hardik Pandya found himself in a situation where the whole world it seemed had a suggestion for him as to what to do. Nervous grin in tow, his first delivery was produced a single.The crowd lit up. In commentary, Sunil Gavaskar was waxing eloquent of how Mushfiqur Rahim was a cheeky player and that he wouldn’t be surprised if he tried something different.

Second ball of the over he smacked for four. Third delivery, he played a shot behind the wicket and Dhoni couldn’t stop it from reaching the boundary. Sunil Gavaskar was basking in the glory of his prediction of a cheeky shot being played came true. Mushfiqur Rahim began celebrating. No one could blame him. From 11 off 6, the equation was down to 2 runs off 3.

What got into Mushfiqur’s head no one will ever know, but the shot he played will surely need many demons of his to be exorcised. The role of a finisher or a hero isn’t always to finish things in style or add a poetic touch. Sometimes their role is just to cross the finish line and that will be enough. Bangladesh had never beaten India in a T20. More than victory, history was three deliveries away.

Mushfiqur heaved and the ball was on the air for what seemed like eternity. If you were watching it on the screen, you would have thought it was a six. Instead, Shikhar Dhawan held what would be one of the most important catches of his life. 2 required off 2.

All Mahamudullah had to do was work the ball away for a single or a two. The field was spread out. Again, what got into his head no one will ever know. He smacked the ball and Ravindra Jadeja covered good ground in the deep and held on to the ball like he had found some long lost treasure.

The Chinnaswamy stadium was like a dormant volcano that had suddenly erupted. 2 off 1.

Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahamudullah were almost heroes of the day.

Shuvagata Hom should have been celebrating a historic victory in the dugout. There he was given the task of creating history. Dhoni had taken his right glove off and was ready to charge. Pandya bowled according to plan, outside off, and Shvagata missed the ball but ran in order to bring into play the super over.

MS Dhoni could have thrown the ball. A fielder could have stood near the stumps and collected the ball from him. Sometimes a leader must take matters into his own hands. He ran like he was running against Usain Bolt and took the bails off. Hardik Pandya seemed to be the only person who had gotten a clear view of the run out and took off like a plane from a runway.

The replays showed that Dhoni had taken the bails off with the batsman still a couple of feet away.

We all look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Bangladesh pulled off the impossible and in three deliveries, managed to find the tunnel at the end of the light.

They almost created history.

Like many others, I too was guilty of not giving the match the credibility it deserved. Being my wife’s birthday, we went out for dinner and I was secretly happy that there was no big match that day. It was only Bangladesh. I lucked out as I could catch the entire second innings.

It was my wife’s birthday. But it seemed like the whole country was celebrating.

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