ICC World Cup 2019: Agony and ecstasy of a dropped catch
The ball hadn’t come off the sweetest part of the bat. Instead of soaring over the square-leg boundary, it hung in the air for a while before dropping well short of the fence. Tamil Iqbal was running in from the deep, getting ready to give Bangladesh a dream breakthrough. Slowing down, eyes transfixed on the ball, Iqbal was doing everything right till it was all undone within a second.
Hard hands, last-moment panic, lack of proper balance --- the spill can be attributed to a number of factors. Iqbal’s disbelief was understandable. Normally he is a safe outfielder. And even though there have been a few gaffes this World Cup, Sher-e-Bangla stadium at Mirpur, Bangladesh, remembers how Iqbal had pulled off a breathtaking catch, running in from deep extra-cover and diving full length to dismiss Darren Bravo last December. Bangladesh hadn’t stopped talking about that catch for days. Confidence, therefore, to pull off an encore, was never lacking.
But this was a bigger stage, and definitely the biggest wicket of them all. The name Rohit Sharma doesn’t stir happy memories for Bangladesh. But for Virat Kohli and Rohit, many in their sizeable media contingent here believe Bangladesh’s batting is as good as India. Kohli’s ability to grind out bowling attacks has won many fans in Dhaka but it’s Rohit ‘world class’ batting that has them floored.
Thorn in the flesh during the 2015 World Cup quarter-final, followed by the 2017 Champions Trophy match here in Birmingham where his unbeaten 123 was enough to bury Bangladesh’s hopes, Rohit has the knack of making teams pay through the nose if he is given a life. He has been dropped four times in singles digits in this World Cup. On three occasions, Rohit made the opposition ---- South Africa, England and Bangladesh --- pay by scoring centuries. On the fourth, against Australia, he got 57.
From Thisara to Tamim
Thisara Perera knows about it. Dropping Rohit, on 4, at third man gave the Sri Lanka all-rounder probably the worst nightmare of his life. The drop sent the decibel levels through the roof at Eden Gardens, never to dip again as Rohit went on to add 260 runs to his personal tally before Sri Lanka were dismissed for 251. To gift the same batsman a life two days after he had scored a century at the same ground is unpardonable. Iqbal, the Bangladesh team and their supporters instantly knew they could be in for a long day.
Most shocked probably was Mustafizur Rahman who wasn’t having a great World Cup going into this match. But there was always this belief that India, and Rohit in particular, would bring out the best in him. Not without reason though. Rohit is Rahman’s first international scalp in a most memorable debut at Mirpur that saw him leaving with the Man-of-the-Match award as well.
On that noisy evening, Rohit wasn’t able to read Rahman’s well-disguised cutter, slicing it to Mashrafe Mortaza at mid-off. The story hadn’t changed much in four years. The only reason why Rohit --- more adept than most at pulling and hooking --- couldn’t connect can only be because of that slight variation in pace that Rahman had mastered even before his debut. Lesson learnt, never again did Rohit try to pull Rahman again in this innings.
Speaking in hindsight is easy. Rahman won’t be faulted for feeling he could have added another scalp to a first five-wicket haul since November, 2015. And who knows what would have been India’s final score had Iqbal held on to that catch. Never in the last two decades has India felt this vulnerable in the middle order as Rohit, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli have been taking turns to them. Dismissing Rohit this early could have been momentous for Bangladesh’s World Cup campaign.
Dropped catches can cost more than matches. History chronicles many offenders but no one has been quoted more than Herschelle Gibbs, another opening batsman like Iqbal. Years later, when Gibbs was asked about giving Steve Waugh a life and South Africa a leash, he came up with a rather surprising answer. “People still ask me about that drop to Steve Waugh in the 1999 World Cup. The truth is, it doesn’t haunt me as I’ve been chirped about it for a long time,” said Gibbs.
Iqbal may not be that lucky though. Bangladesh have reached the tipping point of their expectations and are desperate to win a trophy to justify the obsession. With those dreams squashed, Iqbal may have to live with the regret that a dropped catch could have been the reason why Bangladesh didn’t make it to the knockouts.