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Bangladesh cricket is still the ‘boys among the men’ in international cricket

Bangladesh
Bangladesh cricketers congratulate Mashrafe Mortaza (2L) after the dismissal of England cricketer Ben Stokes. (Photo by STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

For any Englishman in Mirpur, the conditions can be quite ghastly. When Jake Ball chanced his arm in the first ODI, many viewers could not help but notice the red coloration on his face. He was on debut. He was feeling the heat. Of course, one can imagine that Bangladesh isn’t the ideal place for a European athlete to make his debut, but there was something significant about the events in Mirpur that day.

Just a few months earlier, Ball had made his debut against Pakistan at Lord’s. Pakistan had won the match, but Ball had a dream debut simply by virtue of the fact that it was played at the so-called Mecca of Cricket. However, at Mirpur, Jake Ball was at the receiving end of a tough baptism. A Bat-Mitzvah if you will.

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The conditions were proving to be a bit too much. His face had a distinct pink coloration and he was sweating as though the Brits were on a tour in the heart of the Sahara desert. Yet, the 25-year old was chancing his arm to the fullest. He was soaked in his own sweat. Yet, he was taking the fight to the opposition with some gutsy batting.

He was the last man out as Bangladesh clinched the second ODI. However, the match will be remembered for the events that took place towards the end of the encounter. Particularly, when Ben Stokes got into an on-field altercation with Tamim Iqbal, Shakib-Al-Hasan had to make a divine intervention to break it up.

Of late, sportsmanship is being leveraged and is sometimes replaced by aggression. In the case of Bangladesh, it is most certainly being replaced by aggression. While the Bangladesh fans, a handful of whom are scattered around different parts of the globe are getting their share of the ‘kick’ out of watching the Bangladeshi cricket team perform, many others like myself are questioning the sportsmanship behind the aggression.

In the early 2000s, when many of the blokes who watched cricket like me were introduced to the world of sledging. It was 1999 and a young Indian team had been dispatched from the subcontinent to do battle with the Aussies. Javagal Srinath, one of India’s leading bowlers rubbed the red cherry against his waist. He was getting ready to bowl against a young Ricky Pointing.

When the ABC channel did its feature on the former Australian skipper, what they failed to mention in the 45-minute long clip was the sudden bursts of anger the Aussie skipper suffered from. Of course, it was a massive part of his gameplay, but, the fact of the matter remained. It was not a pretty sight. In contrast, it was something that took Srinath by surprise at the time.

With his mustache in twirls at the time, Srinath embodied the typical Mysorean warrior of the British Raj. Tall and dark, Srinath would be the man who could give you somewhat of a physical presence when one went on overseas tours. The Mysore express was on its way as Punter aimed his kookaburra blade at the boundary. As he prepared to pull the gentle 135 kmph delivery to the fence, a miscue saw him struck in the midriff.

However, what came out of the Australian batsman’s mouth was something that shocked many of us glued to the telly if not the massive figure of Javagal Srinath. ‘ Get back and f****ing bowl’ were the words that came out, prompting Mark Waugh to take a quick stroll up to the angry Punter and have a few words with him. Perhaps just to calm him down.

In recent times, the fans have been in the thick of it all. There are times when many witness disgraceful comments from both sects of supporters across all sports. Of course, the sportsmanship is there for all to see in this case, yet, the fight has been embodied by the players on the field of play and the fans on social media in recent times.

Under Chandika Haturusingha, Bangladesh has had somewhat of an unprecedented rise in international cricket. Their rise has also coincided with some astonishing findings in Lord Wolff’s report on the ICC’s governance. The crux of Wolff’s report sees very few smaller nations/ associate members benefit from the ICC rulings. Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Ireland are a few countries to profit from this.

However, in spite of all these adverse issues clouding Bangladesh cricket at the moment, they have risen to prominence. Series wins against South Africa and India in the past year has shown that they are neither pushovers nor minnows.

However, as far as many are concerned, Bangladesh remains to be the ‘Boys among the men’ of international cricket. Of course, in certain cases, the aforementioned statement is most definitely a desirable thing to have. Yet, in most cases, when one needs to switch into becoming the quintessential adult in the round table, it is perhaps one of the least desirable cases.

When it comes to maturity on the cricket field, the Bangladeshis have definitely learned the art of the cricketing war. During a match, the winning of key battles is enough to let you claim a win in the war. Bangladesh has exhibited this time and again whilst playing ODIs in the previous year.

They have managed to unearth some world class players. Mustafizur Rahman is perhaps the most sought after player in cricket today.  His cutter is quintessentially worth a million dollars. Of course, it would be rather stupid to insure it but the fact of the matter remains that he will be the one to make the light of Bangladeshi cricket last through the ages.

However, in spite of this, there was the sinister event that occurred during the World T20 earlier this year where the immaturity of Bangladesh was there for the world to see. MS Dhoni, the Indian skipper was a picture of calm. His side was on the brink of an embarrassment of sorts. One, they were on the losing streak against Bangladesh, a side that had fought its way through the group stages of the tournament to brush shoulders with the big guns.

The second thing that probably ran through Dhoni’s mind was the qualification to the semifinal of the tournament. The fact that they were playing at home was the added pressure. However, in spite of this, Dhoni took a gamble. He is a gamble by nature. His gut feeling had seen Joginder Sharma immortalized in 2007. And, it would immortalize 22-year old all-rounder Hardik Pandya.

Three deliveries to go and one run to win. Hardik Pandya walks past Ian Gould allowing himself the sinister smirk. Those present at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore are on the edge of their seats. Just a few minutes earlier, Mushfiqur Rahim had swung the bat in the thin Bangalore air, signifying that Bangladesh had won the game. Needless, to say, the Indians won the game after having claimed wickets in each of the final three deliveries.

In the aftermath of the events that took place in Bangalore, Mushfiqur Rahim was on the receiving end of some of the worst possible banter. Of course, he was defended quite aptly by those draped with a Bangladeshi flag. However, it was always going to be nothing short of a massacre on social media. The aftermath also included Mushfiqur’s tweet after India had lost to the West Indies in the semi-final at the Wankhede. Where was sportsmanship then?

More recently, England’s tour of Bangladesh has now seen yet another second controversy. If one spends a substantial amount of time to think about what has taken place thus far, England may well have not been a part of the bilateral series given the security issues. However, the incident involving Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, and Tamim Iqbal has set yet another clout on Bangladeshi cricket. One may even remember Shahadat Hossain’s celebration when he dismissed Virat Kohli.

Of course, one could very well point the finger at England given their track record in disciplinary issues in recent times. Skipper Mashrafe Mortaza went on to reveal that he would apologize for neither the tussle with Stokes nor the overwhelming celebration. On one side of the ICC world rankings, players are fined and reprimanded for showboating and over celebrating while the likes of Sabbir Rahman and Tamim Iqbal are unapologetic when it comes to doing the same.

All of this evidence simply begs to ask the question. Is Bangladesh cricket ready and refined to be presented to the world as is? Moreover, is Bangladesh cricket still in such an infancy that sportsmanship will be a product of a few victories? Please share your opinions on the comments sections below.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal views and opinions of the author. 

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