You could almost discern the lump in his throat as Mashrafe Mortaza started his pre-match press conference in Kolkata on Friday. Bangladesh are yet to get over the one-run loss against India. “We had 48 hours to ponder over it, but I’m still clueless. I can’t really describe how we lost the game. We didn’t speak to each other for a long time in the dressing room. It’s difficult. We should have won it easily. Whatever people say, we have to accept criticism,” Mortaza said. It’s unlikely Bangladesh would have got much brickbats given the fact that in their loyal fans the team has a buffer which saves them from criticism. But how long will their patience last? (STATS || POINTS TABLE || FIXTURES)
Bangladesh played their first Test in November 2000. Sixteen years down the line, they haven’t yet reached the semi-finals of any ICC event. The Chinnaswamy slip confirmed their stagnation, especially away from home. A host of Bangladeshi reporters have been accompanying the team for this event and they talk about the unwavering support from the fans back home, heartbreak notwithstanding. But how long will they continue to back the underachievers? Time has come for Bangladesh to start winning outside Mirpur as well.
BCB president Nazmul Hasan too chose to go soft on the team. “I don’t think it’s (loss) a setback. It was very unusual to lose that way; something that had happened to us for the first time. But there are plenty of positives to take from that game. Don’t forget, Bangladesh as a cricket team is still going through the learning period. We played the qualifiers here before getting into the Top 10s. And we gave Australia and India a run for their money. We had all but won the match in Bangalore, but two of our most trusted batsmen committed errors. This is cricket. I believe the team will learn from their mistakes and will become stronger,” Hasan said. “As for our away record, don’t forget, even India had this problem not very long ago,” he added.
Maybe, Bangladesh cricket is being negatively affected by the siege mentality. From the Rohit Sharma ‘no-ball’ decision in the 50-over World Cup last year to Taskin Ahmed and Arafat Sunny’s ouster in this World T20; they seem to have developed a habit of resorting to conspiracy theories. Their attitude is in sharp contrast to their ambition of becoming a big team. Hasan begged to differ.
“Mind, no one from the BCB had said anything about the incident in the last year’s World Cup. Yes, Mustafa Kamal, who was then ICC president from Bangladesh, spoke his mind but our board didn’t give its note of approval. As for Taskin and Sunny’s suspension, we were very surprised to say the least. Taskin has been our fastest bowler who was supervised by almost all ICC Elite panel umpires over the last one year and a half.
“Suddenly, in this world cup, his action was found to be illegal. Losing them was a huge setback and that we still put Australia under serious pressure and ran India so close spoke volumes of the team’s character. I think the defeat in Bangalore, and I put it to the overconfidence of the batsmen, has taught us an important lesson. It will help us become tough and develop the killer instinct.”
Mortaza concurred. “We will be a different side from the next World Cup. We just have to think positive,” he said. Former Bangladesh captain Akram Khan, who is now the chairman, cricket operations at the BCB, shared his view.
“Everyone in the team is in a state of shock but time is the biggest healer. Bangladesh cricket faithfuls will continue supporting us. We have had a fantastic group of cricketers and they will move on. Our performance in limited-overs cricket last year attested our progress. The loss in Bangalore is a blip but it will not stall our growth. We have beaten India, Pakistan and South Africa in bilateral ODI series, have reached the Asia Cup final and performed well in World Cups. This is a process and when the process is complete, results will start to take care of themselves; both home and away.”
All said and done, it’s very difficult to regroup as a unit after such a demoralising defeat and it would be a test of resolve for Bangladesh against the high-flying Kiwis. By Mortaza’s own admission, lifting the team morale would be a challenge. Bangladesh might be dreaming of a bright future, but their present is marred by despondency.