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Young guns blaze into glory

I feel for Virender Sehwag. He doesn't seem to be the player I know, writes John Wright.

india Updated: Mar 19, 2007 02:36 IST
THE EX-FACTOR | John Wright
THE EX-FACTOR | John Wright

This is an article I didn't expect to write. On the face of it, it was a good first game for India. On their day, Bangladesh are a handful but for teams like India, any hiccups can generally be countered by class and experience of getting out in tight periods. Indians have come through situations like this, against tougher opponents.

The word 'minnows' is often used to describe Bangladesh and it is a very silly one. In a two-horse race, Bangladesh are more like younger brothers. But even kid brothers grow up. After all, in one of their warm-up games, they had accounted for New Zealand. The key against India was early wickets, which they got — on the strength of his first spell, Mashrafe Mortaza, brilliant with pace and aggression, would find a place in any team in this World Cup. The support from the other end was critical and Syed Rasel was a perfect foil, bowling straight through 10 overs for 31. Runs dried up.

The Bangladeshi fielding was young and quick, and after the first two wickets fell for 21, it got quicker still. When spin came, there may have been no turn in sight, but there was line, length, clever flight and no width. The three left-armers angled in eliminating boundaries. Sourav and Yuvraj began rebuilding and did until 156 for 4. In normal times that would have been the foundation of India's recovery, but Bangladesh's fielding and bowling was relentless.

In the old days, 191 would have been enough. The pressure of the chase, the history and the occasion would be too much. All of those I was surrounded by thought so. I think one fact slipped our minds: the Bangladeshis are the youngest of the Test playing teams in this World Cup with an average age of roughly 23.6. The untamed spirit in their youngest looked at history and possible notions of failure - and laughed.

The batting of young Tamin Iqbal, 18 only on Tuesday, was so innocently fierce, that it drew the impartial local crowd to their feet. They probably saw shades of their Viv or Collis King in him. Bangladesh needed his innings. It was inspirational in its leadership of the chase.

Mushfiqur Rahim, just 18, was the rock who showed that he was ready to stand in the middle to the bitter end. Even as we wondered, whether they shouldn't they still be in school, the two teenagers displayed temperament well beyond their years. Along with a sensible mixture of defence and attack, the partnership between Mushfiqur and Saqibul Hasan, still 20, won the game for Bangladesh.

Bangladesh played the better cricket and I do not enjoy stating this fact. With ball, bat and in the field, they were the better team and deserved to win. Dav Whatmore is a wily old fox, a coach's coach who has done his time and I feel deserves a plug. I know he will enjoy the evening and reflect on the progress made and the opportunities ahead.

I understand and know too well what this loss means to all of us Indian supporters. Yes, I still count myself as one of them. Today, we did not play well, we were way below our best. When batting first on a lively wicket, surely it should be Rahul at No 3. But let us give credit where it's due and let's not forget what Bangladesh did today.

They grew up.