The swag of a young Afif against the world’s best like Starc sends the message to millions of youth that they are inferior to none, and all they need is confidence and attitude to be the best in the world
Neville Cardus, arguably the greatest cricket writer in history, used to say, ”A snick by Jack Hobbs is a sort of disturbance of a cosmic orderliness.”
Contrary to the legendary English batsman’s snick, a mesmerizing, a shot full of swag, style and sublime acumen stopped the cosmic orderliness Wednesday when the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium stood still in awe.
It was a T20 game, which a lifelong Victorian traditionalist like Cardus may loathe, but the inch perfect cover drive of Afif Hossain, the 21-year old Bangladeshi, would not be deprived of all the plaudits and lyrical waxes from the great writer.
It was against Mitchell Starc, the most fearsome bowler in the current cricketing world, and situation was tense as young Afif was trying to navigate his side home through a tight equation.
Afif produced the most picturesque shot as he bent his back knee, following the exact instruction of coaching manuals, and dispatched the pitched up delivery with perfect hand-eye coordination to the boundary with disdain.
Commentators around the world were hailing the shot as good as that of maestros like Brian Lara, Sourav Ganguly and Kumar Sangakkara and some were saying that very shot broke the oppositions’ morale to pave the way for yet another victory for the hosts.
But in the grander perspective, it was not the mere shot but the follow-up that signify the cosmic disorder, the upside down of the status quo, the transformation of perennial minnows to a bunch of superheroes.
Afif kept his pose and stared back at the fearsome bowler, clearly stating, he is not to be intimidated by the greater forces, and unlike their predecessors, the current bunch of brave young men are ready to fight with their Spartan spirit till the last moment.
Things were completely different a couple of decades ago.
In the mid 1990s, when I was a school-going boy, I met with a national team bowler who got the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar in an ODI.
The Bangladeshi bowler was treated mercilessly and his economy rate was around eight in an era when anything over five was counted as a poor return for the man with the cherry.
But, I vividly remember how happy he was just to get the wicket of the great batsman, and boasting with pride albeit a huge defeat for his side.
For him and his teammates, thinking anything beyond the spirit of participation was perhaps sacrilegious in that epoch.
Many claim during an international match in the mid 80s an opposition captain refused even to go for a toss with the Bangladeshi skipper, but the latter was so thrilled just to have the chance of playing with the great names, he was amused rather than feeling the ignominy.
The story may be an exaggeration but it illustrates the mindset of Bangladeshi cricketers and perhaps that of their followers during the era.
But things have changed ever since.
Bangladesh, the perennial minnows, improved their situation by hunting big scalps frequently over the last few years, and the change in body language was evident.
These days a Bangladesh win is not termed as an upset or fluke, and they are not received by immense ecstasy and countrywide celebration, which was the norm following the rare fairy-tale-like wins of the Tigers.
Shakib al Hasan became the world’s top all-rounder and he along with his illustrious teammates like Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim gained that sort of respect which was unthinkable even in the most daring dream.
Indeed, they no longer remain a meek prey but transformed themselves into apt hunters.
Their next generation also snatched the U-19 World Cup and many among them will become global superstars in years to come.
But, despite all these changes, a 21-year old Bangladeshi showing ultimate swag against the world’s most prolific bowler is still something that transcends all the quotidian affairs, beyond the boundary.
The power of this swag was neatly illustrated by CLR James, one of the greatest philosophers of the last century, in his magnum opus, Beyond A Boundary.
He showed how the wins, the never-say-die attitude, and the winning mentality in cricket ground transcended Caribbean people, and how they got the self belief to get on top, effacing the trauma of oppression for centuries.
Even in this part of the world, sport invigorated the spirit of the oppressed as Mohun Bagan’s legendary win against a team of English, the colonial masters, is often termed as one of the most significant mental boosts for the youth to break the shackle of oppression.
Those wins prove the subjects of colonial rules are not inferior by any means to their so-called superior masters.
The oppressed also have the power to look eyeball to eyeball against the oppressors.
In modern era, cricket often becomes the conduit of nasty jingoism and fumes the already dangerously populist, bi-polar world.
But it can also transfix and elevate the morale of a nation altogether in the most positive manner.
The swag of a young man against the world’s best sends the message to millions of youth that they are inferior to none, and all they need is confidence and attitude to be the best in the world.
That is the beauty of sports where a single moment may inspire to rewrite the history of forthcoming decades.