The thunderous roar of the Mirpur (town in Dhaka city, the capital of Bangladesh) crowd rises into the hot Dhaka night as the 19-year old youngster merely smirks at the carnage in front of him. Hashim Amla, the most consistent batsman in One Day International (ODI) Cricket history, takes one shocked look at the uprooted stumps behind him before turning his back to the jubilant green-and-red huddle forming around the nubile teenager. These were the scenes at the Sher-E-Bangla Stadium last week, as Bangladesh subdued an otherwise-dominant South Africa side for the second match in a row. Bangladesh, long known as the minnows of the cricket world, displayed their newfound mastery of the game to overcome a side they managed to beat only once in the past decade. This is not new to them anymore.
They rounded off the most successful season of ODI cricket, adding the scalps of the Protease to those of the Indians, Pakistanis and Zimbabweans – the fourth home series they won in a row. The last 8 months truly saw the “Rise of the Tigers,” a bout of success that 150 million Bangladeshis around the world had been waiting for, for almost 20 years.
Instrumental to this amazing success have been the youngsters that have stepped into the big shoes from the youth teams. Debutante fast bowler 19-year-old Mustafizur Rahman nabbed a record 13 wickets in the three games that left the full-power Indian side – widely claimed as the best batting lineup in the world – completely beaten and lost for words. Newbie opening batsman Soumya Sarkar, only in his first few months of international cricket, saw Bangladesh through to victory both games against South Africa, displaying a barrage of sweetly-timed strokes reminiscent of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. The side has rallied around the fighter captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, whose kneecap (that has seen 13 surgeries in the past 8 years) juts out tough his trousers every time he runs in to bowl, who embodies and instills the attacking mindset that Bangladesh have confidently displayed.
The raucous Mirpur crowd and the entire cricket-crazed nation beyond the stands have been living the dream. For Bangladeshis like myself living abroad, staying up nights to watch the matches that begin in the dead of the night, trying desperately to stream the matches on the morning commute, and keeping an eye on the Cricinfo scoreboard have been a regular part of our lives for the past 8 months. I lost count of the number of times I whooped on the morning Boston subways the past month, drawing strange stares, as the Tigers routed their opposition. A nation that has been divisive in politics, culture and religion in recent times, that has been racked by violent murders of children, has been given these precious moments to unite behind. The immense pride we all feel for the Bangladesh Cricket Team never fails to bring a smile to the faces of the farmers, rickshaw pullers, school students, professionals, and expats like myself, who is grinning right now as I punch these words into my computer.
The Bangladeshi team, like many others in the past, has now become an inspiration. Every team that is currently known as the stars of the cricket world has worked days and nights to get where they are. Often times we see successful beings and we are amazed by their accomplishments and are in awe of them. We don’t highlight their failures or the bruises they’ve had to endure to come where they are. The truth is, we often end up thanking all those that made it possible to achieve our dreams but we don’t thank ourselves for trying and failing and then trying all over again. It takes determination and will power to overcome our greatest losses and become someone who people can look up to. It takes even greater determination when they hold an entire nation’s faith and hopes on their shoulders.
Let it be known, the Bangladeshi Cricket Team till today was an ‘underdog’ barely qualifying for international tournaments. And today, it has moved past it all and is carrying its scars and bruises of failures as it keeps moving forward. We as Bangladeshi Cricket fans take pride in its accomplishments today, but are also prouder because it has come a really long way.
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