By Azad Majumder | When Mushfiqur Rahim steered Thisara Perera towards mid-wicket for a single, he actually buried several ghosts at a time. Mushfiq started screaming half-way through the cease before he had completed the run. A bit of premature celebration once again, but he knew it was not going to cost him anything this time. With this single, he not only took Bangladesh to a fabulous win but also made one-run defeat to India two years ago a part of history.
For him, the nightmare of Bangalore is now officially over. A few people will demand something similar against India though. But Mushfiq could legitimately claim that he had done what he could do the maximum to wipe out the poor memory.
And in doing so he also helped Bangladesh overcome a few other mental blocks. These were much, more crucial than the distant memory of one narrow defeat against a superior side.
Under Chandika Hathurusingha
Every time Bangladesh played poorly in recent matches, people started talking how bad a side they were in the past and how good they were made by their former coach Chandika Hathurusingha. Bangladesh also lost matches under Hathurusingha and some of their defeats in his three-and-half-year period were very ugly. But Bangladesh’s recent bad patch coincided with Sri Lanka’s resurgence under their former opener.
One could not be really blamed if he or she had considered Hathurusingha a coaching god after seeing this. Bangladesh needed to show they could still surprise people with their performance without the presence of any such god in their tent. Mushfiq, with his unbeaten 72 off 35 balls, brought this feeling back. They could now move on without worrying too much about what might have happened if the Sri Lankan coach was still with them.
But again, even this was not their biggest concern in this tournament. They came to Sri Lanka without their talismanic all-rounder Shakib al Hasan, who had been crucial to their most of the success in recent years. No other team perhaps relied so much on a single player than Bangladesh relied on Shakib to make things happening for them.
It’s not just the players, Bangladesh Cricket Board, selectors none had any idea about how to replace Shakib. Their confusion was reflected in every move they took since Shakib injured his left little finger in January. In the Test series against Sri Lanka they took three spinners as his replacement for one game and then in the Twenty20 series against the same team, they included Shakib without waiting for him to even unstitching the injured finger. They again included Shakib to the team for Nidahas Trophy without knowing the exact duration of his healing period.
These all indicated how desperate the BCB was to get Shakib back. This time they initially took Mehedi Hasan as his cover. But when Shakib was finally ruled out, he was replaced by wicketkeeper-batsman Liton Das. Both Mehedi and Liton played against Sri Lanka on Friday and made vital contributions in the five-wicket win.
Tamim and Liton’s show
Liton’s 19-ball 43 was perhaps the most entertaining innings by a Bangladeshi opener in their Twenty20 history. Yes, Tamim Iqbal got a hundred in Twenty20 cricket but it came against little known Oman in the qualifying phase of a tournament. Tamim’ 61-ball 88 against West Indies was also entertaining. But Bangladesh were not under so much pressure in 2012 like this time.
Liton came to open in this game for the first time knowing that a failure would again push him in the lower-order where he could not be considered anything other than a fringe player. His first five balls yielded him just one run. But once he could hammer Akila Dananjaya for a six over midwicket fence in the sixth ball he was facing he did not look back. His five sixes in the innings perhaps cemented his place not only in Twenty20 side but also gave him a shot in the arm for one-day internationals.
With him successfully taking the opening slot and Soumya Sarkar coming at one down, Bangladesh also rediscovered a winning formula that they successfully implemented in World Cup 2015. They got perhaps their best Twenty20 combination in this game when Mehedi Hasan followed six specialist batsmen at number seven. He can easily make the way for Shakib once the latter returns to the side.
Bangladesh had been toying with their Twenty20 combination since the South Africa tour in October. Six players were handed debut in recent series against Sri Lanka but only one could make it to the starting lineup in Sri Lanka win, which came as another eye opener for the selectors. They can now sit and relax without experimenting too much with the team that prompted one of their former colleagues raising a question about their quality on the same day the win came.
If selectors act more sensibly, it will also give the senior players some confidence. They have just got their belief back as the team successfully knocked off a target of 215 runs, the fourth highest in Twenty20 history. Bangladesh had never been a good chasing team in Twenty20s.
Before this game, they won just 11 of their 46 matches when the team batted second. But this was such a calculative run chase that it would make any team proud. During the course of 20 overs, they never allowed their scoring rate to go below 10 and crossed the barrier of 200-run with an over in hand. This was not a small achievement. They can still lose in the remaining matches of the tournament. But this will win encourage the team in the years to come.