Bangladesh - No more toothless tigers

Suyash Srivastava

Mushfiqur Rahim was a sad skipper. So were his teammates and Bangladesh fans who went in a state of shock. Rahim held Shakib-al-Hasan as the fans witnessed Asia Cup 2012 slip out of their fingers. It was a tense match. The Tigers were struggling at one time and yet they managed to take it to the final ball of the innings. Bangladesh had reached the finals after defeating the reigning World Champs and the runners up. It had been a dream run for them, which might be the reason why the Tigers could not hold their emotions back after Thursday’s loss. They were, after all, so close to creating history!

Their effort in the Asia Cup 2012 has been highly commendable and thus the result of the finals should be inconsequential as compared to what they have achieved in terms of respect among their top opponents.

The last time cricketing fraternity saw a team taking a victory lap in a stadium was at the Wankhede stadium on April 02 after India won the World Cup. Similar scenes erupted at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium on Tuesday as Bangladesh defeated Sri Lanka.

Of late, Bangladesh hasn’t been an easy opponent. Apart from Asia Cup 2012, they have been consistently improving their cricket. Here is a history of occasions where they have stunned formidable opponents in major competitions.

June 18, 2005. NatWest series. Bangladesh vs Australia
Venue: Sophia Gardens, Cardiff

Bangladesh were facing the then World Champions Australia and the match was predicted to be totally a one sided affair. Ponting won the toss and chose to bat first with the aim to humiliate Bangladesh while they chased a mammoth total. Australian innings witnessed a disaster on the second ball of the innings as explosive Gilchrist was out for a duck. Ponting faced 16 balls for his 1 and he was out as the scorecard read 9/2. With some solid middle order batting from Martyn (77), Clarke (54), Mike Hussey (31) and Simon Katich (36), Australia managed to score 249 runs which seemed defendable with the likes of McGrath, Gillespie, Kasprowicz and Brad Hogg.

The match is fondly remembered for a magnificent century scored by the then Bangladesh superstar Mohammad Ashraful who scored exact 100 runs of 101 balls. It was a determined innings that flattened the Aussies who were left awestruck by the then 20-year-old. Ashraful received good support from his skipper Habibul Bashar (47 from 72) as Bangladesh achieved the target with three overs remaining in an astonishing victory what Wisden described as "the biggest upset in one-day international history".

March 17, 2007. ICC World Cup. India vs Bangladesh
Venue: Queen`s Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad

Just a day before, Bangladesh had lost their budding talent Manjural Islam Rana in a road accident. Bangladesh players wore black bands as they appeared against India for the first time in a World Cup encounter. Dravid won the toss and elected to bat first.

Ganguly and Sehwag scored 6 runs of the first two overs and swashbuckling Sehwag was out on the first ball of the third over bowled by Mortaza. Bangladesh’s celebrations and India’s collapse had just begun. They panicked like a team that was new to the game and the best batting line up on paper failed to score 200 runs. India were 72/4 at one stage from where Ganguly (66 runs) and Yuvraj (47 runs) had an 85-run partnership and with extreme difficulty, India managed to score 191 runs and were all out.

Half of the Indian fans had already vacated the stadium and the others too began to leave as Tamim Iqbal (51 from 55) who was playing in his 5th ODI led from the front and tore the Indian bowling attack into bits and pieces. Bangladesh comfortably chased the target in 48.3 overs with 5 wickets in hand, as Bangladeshi fans thronged the streets to celebrate their most cherished win.

April 07, 2007. ICC World Cup. South Africa vs Bangladesh
Venue: Providence Stadium, Guyana

Put in to bat first, with some fierce bowling by Andre Nel, Bangladesh were wobbling at one stage as the scorecard read 74/4. In walked their disaster management expert, Mohammad Ashraful, who by then had the reputation of playing match-winning knocks against world class opponents. He stabilized the innings with Aftab Ahmed (35 runs) as both of them shared a crucial 76-run-stand for the fifth wicket. Ashraful (87 runs from 83 balls, 12 boundaries) later had another 56-run-partnership with Mashrafe Mortaza (25 runs from 16 balls) that helped the Tigers reach 251 runs at the end of 50 overs. Ashraful’s knock came against a side which then had the likes of Pollock, Ntini, Nel, Langeveldt and Kallis.

Chasing 252 to win, half of the Proteas batsmen collapsed at the score of 87 runs. A 45-run-stand between Gibbs and Pollock went futile as South Africa were bundled for mere 184 runs, losing the match by 67 runs.

Apart from these three victories, led by Mashrafe Mortaza, in October 2010, Bangladesh had humiliated the Black Caps 5-0 in an ODI series, in what was their first ever series win over a major cricketing nation. They had also defeated England in ICC World Cup 2011.

From defeating former World Champions Australia in the past, to defeating the reigning champs and the runners up in the Asia Cup, Bangladesh cricket has come of age. They know their limitations pretty well. The Tigers never had a heavyweight batsman or an express pace bowler, but they have always believed in the entire team’s effort. In case the top order fails to perform, the middle order batsmen come to team’s rescue and this is how they have been making a mark in international cricket so far.

The entire unit seems to be contributing in every other match. They have defeated Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup and despite the result of Thursday’s match, Bangladesh have proved a point that they are for sure out from the minnows list.

Asia Cup 2012 will be remembered for the resurgence of the Tigers. And when India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka tour Bangladesh the next time, they would surely be better prepared and have much more respect for the Tigers.