Of late, I’ve hated watching cricket primarily because rather than sport it’s now more of showbiz. An awful lot of hoopla is created around the game (at least in India) and public opinion is manipulated to ensure enormous TV viewership, particularly for the tamaasha called T-20, where snicks and dropped catches that roll on to the boundary are routinely applauded as masterstrokes! And just as any business has ruthless practitioners who would break any rules – moral or legal – to maximize profit, cricket too has its share of con-men, a well-known fact that has just become official thanks to Justice Lodha Committee’s indictment of some big names who ran the business in India.
But last night, I loved watching Bangladesh destroy the mighty South Africans in Chittagong. And this is how it unfolded.
While returning from my workplace, I saw on my phone – South Africa was at a little over hundred for four. I didn’t think much of it as I expected them come out of the hole. After coming home, I casually switched on the TV. And was astounded to see the way the game was panning out!
The softer sub-continental pitches are not friendly towards fast bowlers and Bangladesh had never produced awe-inspiring seamers. Yet, last night, Rubel Hussains and Mustafizur Rehmans of Bangladesh looked more like Mitchell Johnsons or Morne Morkels. They had such a vice-like grip on the South Africans – the batsmen seemed to be shaking in their boots. At one time, it seemed they wouldn’t last the 40 overs. And in the end, they scored only 168 for nine. I thought maybe, there is some demon in the wicket that is evading my untrained eyes.
After the break, I didn’t switch on the TV for a short while. (Let things perk up a bit!) By the time I did, it was something like seven overs, 41 runs, and zero wickets. Before I could blink, it was 53 for no loss. A twenty-two year-old boy from Khulna, Soumya Sarkar hit three superb consecutive on-drives to the fence. On drives - said to be one of the most difficult shots in cricket executed with effortless ease. Stupendous!
And it was no fluke. The game continued in the same fashion. Bangladesh simply toyed with the South African bowling. Both the openers, Soumya Sarkar and Tamim Iqbal hit a flurry of fours. And more importantly, they didn’t seem to be in the least of trouble against great bowlers like Morkel or Imran Tahir, the latest international sensation in the field of spin. Many a match we’ve seen when Bangladeshi attack was decimated with disdain by more experienced practitioners of the game. But boy that’s history. Yesterday, the two Bangladeshi batsmen seemed to be dealing with a bunch of small-town club cricketers. And the shot that sort of summed up the story was a vicious looking bouncer by Rabada. Sarkar ducked, seemed saving his head, but at the precise moment when the ball was to cross him, held out the bad almost vertically to guide the ball above the wicket keeper's head to the boundary. You can play such nonchalant shots only when you are supremely confident and have got the measure of your opponents.
Bangladesh’s one-day series win against South Africa after coming back from a 0-1 deficit was important, but far more important was their total dominance of the game. What we watched yesterday was reiteration of a statement that the Bangladesh cricket team has been making for some time now. Watch out – we are the emerging powerhouse of cricket! Another Sri Lanka in the making.
16 July 2015