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World Cup 2019: Yet again, India stand in way of Bangladesh’s fight for survival

After England defeat, India will face off against Bangladesh at Edgbaston on Tuesday.

cricket Updated: Jul 02, 2019 08:08 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Birmingham
india vs bangladesh,world cup 2019,ind vs ban
India's captain Virat Kohli bats in the nets using a bowling machine.(AP)

A lingering pause followed by the hint of a smile. “This is probably the first time in cricket I have seen the Asian countries united,” said Mashrafe Mortaza, almost thinking aloud.

In front were around a 100 journalists, Indian and Bangladeshi, many of whom have been witness to Mortaza’s storied journey as understated all-rounder, warrior and a captain who is all heart. “It’s been fantastic. Only cricket can unite people like this.”

Mortaza was speaking on Sunday’s India-England match and how it had brought Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Sri Lanka fans together in praying for an India victory. It didn’t happen. Sri Lanka are out. Pakistan and Bangladesh’s chances are hanging by a thread.

Those few seconds of utopian romance were all Mortaza could spare for himself. Reality needed him to focus on another India match, in another fight for survival at another ICC tournament.

Friends and foes

Bangladesh are used to this and also to the irony that it was the Indian cricket board, then helmed by Jagmohan Dalmiya, that had helped them get Test status and take the first steps in international cricket. They were also the neighbours who didn’t invite Bangladesh for a home Test for 17 years.

Complacency too prevailed at one time. Virender Sehwag minced no words about it while labeling Bangladesh ‘an ordinary side’. The people of Bangladesh were livid. Alongside gratitude nestled a burning desire to prove India wrong.

Victories in 2004, the 2007 World Cup and in the 2015 series at home have gone a long way in changing Bangladesh’s image. And each victory gave Bangladesh a name to remember: Mortaza in 2004, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan in 2007, Mustafizur Rahman in 2015.

It all started with Mortaza though. He was Bangladesh’s first Man of the Match against India, also the Man of the Match in the 2007 World Cup horror story for India.

He was in charge when emotions boiled over in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final where Rohit Sharma was not given out off because of a controversial no-ball due to height. Rohit went on to score a century and oust Bangladesh.

Scores were settled later that year when Rahman’s cutters caught India off-guard as Bangladesh won the ODI series at home 2-1, their best comprehensive against India.

Next year however, India again came one up in an exhilarating World Twenty20 match where Bangladesh couldn’t score two off the last three deliveries. Rohit was at it again in the 2017 Champions Trophy, hitting a fine century that sent Bangladesh spiralling to a nine-wicket defeat.

Here in Edgbaston, with India in a spot of bother, is probably the most opportune time for Mashrafe’s team to finally get one back at Dhoni. For the sake of the team. And for the sake of memories. For this is the last time Mortaza will be playing India in a World Cup. And hence, the last time the core group of Mortaza, Rahim, Iqbal and Shakib will be featuring in a World Cup match against India. Friends and teammates for over a decade, this core has dreamed and planned many upsets and deserving victories.

One last hurrah

But there is a simmering feeling that if India are beaten here, it will no longer be an upset. Bangladesh came of age beating India four years ago. Now they are World Cup contenders, having defeated South Africa, West Indies and giving Australia a run for their money. But to put it across India, Bangladesh need Iqbal to give Bangladesh a good start, Rahim to anchor the middle-order, Shakib to stay true to his all-rounder credentials and Mortaza to be the captain he always is against India --- fired up but calm. “It’s all about skill,” said Mortaza.

Mortaza also knows that compared to the India teams of the past, this one will keep Bangladesh interested.

He almost admitted India have a festering problem in the middle-order. They were training at the adjacent ground when India were losing the plot against England but Mortaza had an eye on the TV at the dressing room.

“It was always going to be difficult to be honest. England bowled to a plan. I think India still had a winning chance after 40 overs,” said Mortaza.

He rarely speaks about other teams. India evokes different emotions but the Bangladesh captain does well to not make this about himself.

“If you are talking about memories….well times have changed. Tomorrow is a new day. It will be a new start. I am not emotional. This is life. I can only hope for a good result. When I was playing in 2007, the captain (Habibul Bashar) didn’t strategise thinking only about me or any other player specifically. He planned with the entire team in mind. Now since I am captain, I will be thinking about the team, not just myself.”

First Published: Jul 01, 2019 23:45 IST