I: The Day Before
The new day yawns and stretches out of its slumber across the early morning horizon. The sharp, muggy sunlight glides right through the tightly drawn curtains with the easy arrogance of a familiar marauder, the one who comes and goes as he pleases. Too hot for unseen birds to announce the day with a riot of sounds from cooler seasons. Where are they now?
Semi-asleep, I feel my eyelids getting warmer, adding strange hues of light to the serene darkness within. The buzz from the ceiling fan begins to seep into my consciousness. The draft. Those curtains being gently sucked in further towards the center of the room, before pulling themselves back to the window like docile children. Convex, concave.... movement along the z-axis. The contemporary grillwork all skewed in those clear, high res shadows. Shifting shape like thick, metallic, malleable liquid. It’s so nice and cool in here, so far from the promise of another scorcher outside these walls. Time to face another day… anytime now. What will I see? How clear are those shadows? How distorted? Tomorrow’s Match day in Dhaka, and I’ll be there… WOW.
How will they do? Will they keep it as tight as they can, and let us catch another glimpse of the very best that all of us can be? Or will they just wilt early and wither away? I'd remember them either way. I remember our novices being manhandled by Grandmasters - being pinned, forked and mated as we found ways deal with the added humiliation of being at the wrong end of getting too much, too soon. I also remember our guys rising out of those episodes with the youthful gleam of an unexpected optimism and eloquence - willed and fabricated purely out of the collective consciousness of the Bangladeshi experience - and turn the table on those idols. I’m partial to those good times, however rare they may be, because they add to that Bangladeshi experience by bringing all of us together.
Time to tuck ourselves back into the power of positive thinking I think, with all the data on placebo effects and psychosomatic suggestion, maybe it’s not all that hokey after all. It’s not everyday you hear the wise old men of cricket bully the new eight-year old in the block because he’s afraid to lose gain.
II: First, Second & It’s Over Before The Third
First the heat, then the legitimately raised expectations, and finally watching our very own captain duckworth handing it to the opposition one single at a time... talk about exhausting - physically, emotionally and what's left of the intellectual faculties.
Kudos to Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al-Hasan for keeping the faith... Ashraful, Aftab and Rafique for doing whatever they could with the little time they had. Making Mongia look good isn’t that tough when time is not on your side. The seamers, despite being belted around the park for a few, fought back well against the hostilities, and did alright given the limitations beyond their control at this particular stage in their development as international cricketers. The spinners, especially Razzak and Shakib, were stellar despite the bland, soulless wicket. We missed Mashrafe and his sheer gumption. We missed out on, I’d say at least 20-30 more runs and a couple of early breakthroughs because of his injury. How many more runs that’s hard to say with Javed Omar finally hogging the crease with success. The customary complacent captaincy and other flubs and fumbles here and there did the rest, and the day's luck opened a door for our guests. Dinesh Kartik helped M.S. Dhoni rise to the occasion and hobble right on through, and there we were: one zip India.
Let's just hope that they learn from their mistakes ...this time around, I thought to myself as always. I didn’t hear the fat lady singing yet…
… Until the second ODI: India win best-of-three series two zip… early post mortem.
India was the hands-down better team in the last game and deserved to win for once. Piyush Chawla is quite a find. The rotation and deceptive nature of the flight when it’s there, alongside an uncanny ability to turn the ball and make it dip right before a possible contact with the bat, make him one to watch. It may be a bit too early to tell, but I won’t be surprised if the comparisons to Shane Warne are not deemed too premature before long. The straightening dip bamboozling Ashraful was a thing of less than subtle beauty. Gautam Gambhir, the latest edition of the sensible Indian opener in the tradition of Wasim Jaffer, delivered the goods with his well-timed ton. The question remains, as always, will he continue to do so, and for how much longer? Yuvraj Singh, Muhammad Kaif and now Dinesh Kartik add the type of Chamara De Silva-like youthful, positive burst to the overall Indian game at least I haven’t seen before. Irfan Pathan going back to his bowling roots, and his brother Yusuf waiting in the wings to have a go at opposition bowlers, add to that youthful dynamism. Last but not least, Manoj Tiwary, though we haven’t had the chance to see him in action yet, is the other real deal whose aggressive batting will take India to a brighter future.
Mashrafe Bin Murtaza remains the lone bright star in our team who shines no matter how overcast the day may be otherwise. The sheer ferocity of his belligerent sixes lifted us higher than we thought possible in an otherwise dismal Bangladeshi performance. Still very young and injury-prone, he shouldn’t be goaded into the all-rounder role like Irfan Pathan for obvious reasons. He needs to grow into that role at his own pace like an Imran Khan. We hope that others like Ashraful, Tamim, Shakib, Mushfiq and Razzak learn to glow just as consistently and brightly and make Bangladesh the world-beating young Tigers they can be before long. It’s not everyday that Bangladesh has a real chance to defeat its evidently more formidable and experienced neighbor and take the ODI series, yet we did after the World Cup. We missed a great opportunity the minute our team selectors decided that a continued Bashar inclusion not just captaincy, and Javed Omar’s painfully palpable limitations as a batsman are liabilities the team could shoulder without terrible consequences. They were wrong and we lost. The phrase honorable loss is readily embraced as the word oxymoron is not in their vocabulary - the word moron, some of us feel should be. Maybe such an honorable loss is not considered such a terrible thing to a has-been generation who don’t share the more positive attitude of their nephews, perhaps because as cricketers they never had that kind of talent themselves. I hope the likes of Alok Kapali, Nafis Iqbal, Nadif Chaudhury, and Junaid Siddique in the not too distant future, don’t continue to get the shaft because of their complex-laden minds.
The writing was on the wall when Bashar, a man who’s always waiting for things to happen, rather than trying to make them happen, let the first ODI drip away from our grasp. Once again clueless, defensive field settings leaking more singles at critical junctures, and adding to early Indian hostilities cost us the second and decisive one. His weirdly gleeful come-back after a string of failures, meaning 43 from 88 balls chasing 280 plus after the team’s big guns have fallen by the wayside, just add to the frustrations, and pretty much exemplify the kind of ODI Captain slash self-centered batsman Bashar is. His dot-ball buddy Omar with a shaky ODI strike rate of 52 point whatever percent, went right back into that familiar shell and wasted the time that nobody except the Indians had in the match. To his partial credit, he did play out of his skin in the first ODI during one of those once-in-a-lifetime flukes that, unfortunately for the rest of us, introduced Ashraful and Aftab a little too late in the match with reasonably predictable results. Enough said.
With the last ODI still to come in a few days, I was eager see if our young Tigers could salvage the only thing they could at that point, and once again promised to give us a glimpse of our own bright future...
III: The Rained Out Third
The opportunity to salvage something, anything out of the series couldn’t be supersopped out of the stadium. The ever-present potential of a Mohammad Ashraful century or Mashrafe Bin Murtaza rampaging through the opposition’s batting order before hitting a few out of the park, always gives us a chance to dream, and win games we need to win. Maybe we were spared another painful rerun.
Anyway, I found the weird elation and bravado in the Indian camp’s a little scary. Let ‘em have their moment I say. Being hopelessly lost in one's own media-hyped delusions of grandeur can be as deadly as it has been to indian cricket and its pathetic record outside the comforts of home. A little disturbing to see the wise old men of world cricket go all gaga over being allowed to win by a young boy of eight-odd years. Fabricating a false self-image due to deeply buried, unresolved issues, believing in the hype, and finally having the media perpetuate the myth, does not mitigate the need for the mask to confess and come clean before real positive change can do what it's supposed to do. I weep for the Piyush Chawlas, Manoj Tiwarys and Yusuf Pathans if the powerful simulacrum of Indian Cricket doesn’t learn to ease up a bit on the jubilation before putting things in proper perspective. Time to grow up guys, growing into senile old fools is easy. We at least have youth as the excuse.
Doesn’t matter anymore. On to the tests, a different cup of tea all together. I, along with a hundred and fifty million more, anticipate pleasant surprises.
Sohel N. Rahman, May 2007, Dhaka.