When Rubel Hossain ended Kyle Mills’ last-stand with an inch-perfect yorker one October evening at Mirpur in 2010, Bangladesh got more than just a historic 4-0 series victory against New Zealand. The country, and the cricket world, got introduced to a new word.
As the Bangladeshi players celebrated like never before, Danny Morrison described it as a whitewash, only for the co-commentator Athar Ali Khan to correct the Kiwi by saying, “No, this is Banglawash.”
The term gained currency overnight, with all local dailies — Bangla or English — splashing it on their front pages in oversized red font and across eight columns the following day. It was as if the newspapers — and not New Zealand — were ‘BANGLAWASHED’.
That was not the first series sweep that Bangladesh had completed. Before New Zealand, they had inflicted this ignominy on Zimbabwe, Scotland, Ireland and the West Indies (albeit a second-rung West Indies).
But this, coming against a major team, was huge. Perhaps, it was their biggest sporting achievement till then, along with the 2007 World Cup (where they beat India in the group stages to qualify for the Super-8s). It gave their fans enormous belief, and it also made them hungry for more. For more Banglawashes.
In fact, ‘hunger’ wouldn’t be the right word here. It’s lust. And of late, after doing so to Zimbabwe and Pakistan in the last eight months, it has morphed into an addiction, even. Ahead of the third ODI against India, this word is on the lips of everyone — fans, journalists, players and members of parliament. Their desperation for isn’t unlike that of a drug addict for a line of coke. They badly want to experience this high again. And now they have a sniff.
On Tuesday, when Bangladesh all-rounder Nasir Hossain was asked if there will be a clean sweep conducted, he replied, “Inshallah!”
Even the Indian team is aware of the threat, and the word. At the pre-match press conference when Ravichandran Ashwin was asked what the team was doing to avoid the “whitewash”, the off-spinner replied with a smile, “What’s a whitewash?” After the journalist corrected himself, Ashwin proceeded with the answer.
“It’s very important to put your best eleven on the park. Obviously, the three changes we made (in the last match) were because we looked to put the best eleven on the park. It didn’t work, but that doesn’t mean you blame the individuals or the people who made the changes. Hopefully, we will try and avoid a Banglawash,” he said.
It will be a considerable challenge. A bigger hurdle than India have faced in the recent past. For one, they seem to have no clue how to handle Bangladesh’s pace sensation Mustafizur Rahman. More specifically, how to play him when he returns with the old ball.
Ashwin left the media no wiser when asked how India were planning to counter the threat. “There isn’t a ‘counter’ as such. I mean what can we do? Can we kidnap him? No, we have to come out there and play some good and solid cricket and try and make sure we nullify him. He does bowl a good cutter, which is something we have to watch out for. We have to give him the respect as well. Respect is what is important in international cricket,” he said.
But India may be interested in this number. It’s not a big sample, but statistics suggests that in his first spell, the left-arm pacer Rahman is a markedly inferior bowler than what he transforms into when he comes back.
Over the first two ODIs, his combined first spell figures are: 9-0-59-1 (4-0-27-0 and 5-0-32-1). Pretty average, you would say. In fact, the one wicket that he took with the new ball was Rohit Sharma’s in the second match. And Sharma got out not to the deadly cutter but the relatively innocuous ball that goes with the angle, as he looked to go after the bowler without getting his eyes in.
But consider the corresponding number for Rahman’s latter spells: 10.2-1-34-10 (5.2-1-23-5 and 5-0-11-5). You read it right: Ten wickets in 10.2 overs. On the surface, it appears to be a Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde scenario, though two matches are too few to make an informed opinion. It could perhaps not even be a pattern but a mere aberration.
However, one thing that wouldn’t harm India is to make other bowlers earn their wickets. In both games, the team seemed to have seen off the danger when they were waylaid. On both occasions, the collapse was precipitated by a bowler who wasn’t Rahman. In the first ODI, Taskin Ahmed removed Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli in quick succession.
In the second, off-spinner Nasir Hossain dismissed the same set of batsmen, only Kohli before Dhawan this time. The wheels came off soon after.
One of the reasons for India’s struggle here has been Virat Kohli’s form. India’s finest ODI batsman since Sachin Tendulkar is having a torrid time against Bangladesh, of late. Before the World Cup quarterfinal in Melbourne, he was averaging 126.5 against the Tigers in six matches, with three centuries and two fifties.
Beginning March 19, the sequence of his four innings reads: 3, 1, 1, 23. He needs to find his form, if India are to deny Bangladesh what it most wants.
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