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The best team won

  • Published at 05:57 pm September 29th, 2018
Asia Cup
What hurt the Tigers most? AFP

My take on the Asia Cup for Bangladesh

This Asia Cup has been quite a thriller, and let’s face it, the best team won. 

I’ve had the privilege of commentating in some of the crucial Bangladesh games along with helping out with the coverage for the sports team at Dhaka Tribune. Here’s what I made of it.

Tamim, Shakib, and Mushfiq take inspiration from Mashrafe

We all know about the multiple injuries and surgeries that captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza has had to deal with over the years, and in extremely hot desert conditions, the senior players had to deal with injuries and fatigue but still showed immense levels of dedication and bravery that inspired the team to victories. 

In the first game against Sri Lanka, Tamim Iqbal fractured his finger after being hit by a Suranga Lakmal bouncer.

He returned as Bangladesh were nine down to face a delivery, batting with just one hand to partner Mushfiqur Rahim in a partnership that inspired Mushfiq to play arguably the best innings of his career. 

Mushfiq himself dealt with a rib injury throughout the tournament, but still scored two match-winning knocks and even kept wickets for the most part. Shakib al Hasan played the entire tournament with a fractured finger until he could play no more. 

Before the final Super Fours game against Pakistan, news emerged that Shakib’s finger had swollen to the point where he couldn’t hold a bat properly so he had to be withdrawn from the team and flown back to Dhaka.

Shakib deserves much better

From the beginning of the tournament, there was talk of Shakib Al Hasan wanting to get surgery done on the pinky finger of his left hand, which he injured during the Nidahas trophy in March.

He has been playing with the injury, as it would require surgery and that would put him out of action for over a month, and with continuous cricket since then, he never managed the time for it. 

It is understood that the management wanted him to play in the Asia Cup, given the importance Bangladesh gave this and the potential of winning a first major trophy, with Mashrafe still playing ODI cricket. Unfortunately, the difficult conditions, packed schedule, and all the travelling, took their toll on the Test and T20I skipper. 

He was operated once he got back to Dhaka and 70-80 ml of pus was removed from his injured finger. The doctors believed, if this was done hours later, he would have lost function in his left hand altogether.

Then add to such mismanagement the way he’s been treated off the field as well with fans questioning whether he was giving his best of the team and most disgustingly, the way they personally attack him and his wife in pictures he posts on social media.

Shakib has attained the number one all-rounder ranking because he is that good and regularly performs to help Bangladesh win matches. 

He is the first and only cricketer in Bangladesh’s history to be a number one ranked player but we seem to be taking him and his consistent performances for granted, to the point where when he doesn’t perform, we question his dedication for the national side. It’s totally unacceptable.

The batting order is a mess

It has become more and more evident as the tournament has progressed that the injury to Tamim Iqbal has hurt the batting plans of the Tigers the most. Tamim was the glue that helped build the innings, especially in Bangladesh’s tour of the Caribbean where he scored two centuries in the ODI series and kept his fluent form in the T20I series with against the West Indians too. 

But his injury opened up a place for Nazmul Hossain Shanto, who failed to capitalize on the chances. Mominul Haque was also given opportunities sporadically along with Mosaddek Hossain, and they both failed to perform, seemingly lacking clarity of what their role in the batting order should be. 

Mohammad Mithun came in and scored two vital fifties to forge match-winning partnerships with Mushfiqur Rahim, but even he is a top order player, who was forced to bat in the middle order. 

To make matters worse, without the consent of the selectors or captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, left-handed openers Imrul Kayes and Soumya Sarkar were flown into the squad on the board’s directives. It had irked Mashrafe even though using Imrul in the middle order against Afghanistan paid dividends as he had experience facing Afghan ace leggie Rashid Khan via playing for the same franchise in the BPL. 

It is understood that such selection irregularities are the norm, but it cannot be good for the squad or the team morale when batsmen are not being given a proper run to prove themselves in their proper batting positions. This could have negative long-term effects on the team if the selectors are not free to do their job and the squad is not settled on. 

There is hope outside the five pillars

Much of the talk leading into the tournament and even during it was about the Tigers’ over-reliance on the five senior players -- Mashrafe, Tamim, Shakib, Mushfiq, and Mahmudullah. And even though Mushfiq, Mashrafe, and Mahmudullah all were very important in Bangladesh reaching the final, they had to play their last two games without arguably their two best players, Tamim and Shakib, but still put in solid performances, especially with the ball. 

Mustafizur Rahman is once again showing glimpses of the form he had in 2015, when he initially entered the Bangladesh team and was the highest wicket-taker against Pakistan. Rubel Hossain also bowled well, especially in the final against India, where he took two wickets with an economy rate of less than three an over.

Perhaps the most impressive performance belonged to Liton Das when he scored his maiden ODI century, dominating a full-strength Indian bowling attack all over the Dubai cricket stadium. 

Some of his shots and stroke-play were breath-taking, and he finally showed a glimpse of his true potential, something his first-class average of around 50 already proved.

Shahnoor Rabbani is a sports commentator working in the Dhaka Tribune.