Interview of Cricket Fans – 39
Thank you so much for your participation in this interview, how did you fall in love with Cricket, tell us a bit about your early days associated with this sport? Also, how is it like growing up in Bangladesh where Cricket is a very popular sport there?
Actually the kids in the subcontinent, more or less, grow up playing cricket in the backyard. I was no different. But to speak the truth, I actually fell in love by watching the game on TV. My uncles used to watch all the cricket going on and I joined them every time. I have hardly missed the matches involving Bangladesh since I was six. Luckily, I’ve found a few friends who loved cricket as much as me. That’s how I fell in love with this great sport.
Have you been fortunate enough to watch an international match live in a stadium?
No, I haven’t been lucky enough to watch an international game in a stadium. But I’ve been to the Sher-E-Bangla National Cricket Stadium twice and watched four Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) matches. I want to, in near future, watch an international game live in a stadium. In fact, the first thing I’ll do is to book a ticket for a match when international cricket returns to Bangladesh.
What do you like about Bangladesh Cricket the most?
Well, in the past, Bangladesh was a pretty defensive side and the flamboyance was missing. Over the last 10-15 years, Bangladesh enjoyed the influx of many extraordinary cricketers that made us a force to reckon with. Yet, the performance was a bit on and off until the 2015 World Cup. Since that tournament, Bangladesh has been a different side altogether. I am pointing out a particular event. Bangladesh was facing India in a three-match ODI series after the World Cup. Remarkably, they played four fast bowlers despite being known as a heavily spin-dependent side. And it paid dividends as we won the series 2-1. This event was a clear sign of fearlessness. In the past, we were intimidated by the strength of the teams playing us but not anymore. The most likeable thing about the current Bangladesh team is the attitude of the players. They are representing a brand of fearless cricket and the new generation of cricketers do not lose the game mentally before physically competing in the match. This particular change in attitude and mindset is what I like the most about the current team.
Bangladesh has so many stalwarts in their team, Mashrafe Mortaza, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Abdur Razzak to name a few. How much will this inspire the youngsters across the country to pick up the bat or ball and play this sport?
There’s a very interesting thing about the players you mentioned. You know, our cricket’s centre stage is in Dhaka and not much facilities are available in the cities other than the capital city. So, apparently, it’s quite difficult for a kid growing up in smaller towns to make it big in cricket. But guys like Mashrafe Mortaza, Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah, Abdur Razzak- none of them are from Dhaka. So basically, the cricketers who are the icons and role models here automatically inspire a small-town kid or a kid living in the periphery to play cricket and make him believe that he can also represent Bangladesh in the highest level.
In the past when there were not many cricketing idols to look up to, the parents here were always reluctant to let their kids play. They always wanted their kids to be doctors or engineers or service holders earning good money. But these guys have completely changed the way people looked at cricket and now the parents do not object when the kids want to play cricket. Rather, they inspire the kids to become another Shakib or another Mashrafe. People now have realised that playing cricket professionally is also a respectable job and all credit goes to these stalwarts you mentioned.
How much will Shakib Al Hasan’s ban from international cricket hurt Bangladesh? He was truly at his peak, wasn’t he?
To be honest, Bangladesh didn’t miss his services too much as not much cricket was played at that period because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this sense, the break was a blessing in disguise for Bangladesh and Shakib. This break has enabled him to reflect on certain things that he should’ve taken more seriously and spent more time with his family. The recent photos of him suggest that he is very fit and raring to go. According to our former captain and coach Khaled Mahmud, Shakib is someone who needs very little time to find his mojo back. In the past, we have watched him perform magnificently on return from suspensions. He was in stellar form in the recently concluded World Cup and we desperately want him to start where he left off. The break has certainly given him time to think and I reckon we will see a more matured and dangerous version of him when he returns.
Bangladesh have plenty of batsmen who have brought stability in their team, what about the bowlers? Mention some of your favourite bowlers.
As I mentioned earlier, Bangladesh is known to be a team that depends heavily on spin, left-arm spin to be precise. Bangladesh traditionally produces tons of left-arm spinners but the first such cricketer who caught the world’s eye was Mohammad Rafique. He is someone whom I am a huge fan of. He made his Test debut after he turned thirty and completed the double of 100 Test wickets and 1000 Test runs. Of course, Shakib has been there forever, performing consistently with both bat and ball. But my all-time favourite bowler is Mashrafe Mortaza. Hailing from an unlikely city of Narail, he took up the unlikeliest job in Bangladesh- fast bowling. His career has been obstructed by many injuries but he kept on fighting. In his early days, he troubled the best of batsmen by his sheer pace and swing. India seemed to bring the best out of him and he delivered impeccable performances in wins against them. Currently, he is the highest wicket-taker (270) among active players and not done yet. His pace has gone down over the years because of knee injuries but he remained the talisman of the side for so many years. Mustafizur Rahman is also a favourite bowler of mine. Despite it seems that the batsmen have deciphered his mystery, but he still is a lethal weapon for his captain and hope that he will serve our team in the next 8-10 years especially in white-ball cricket.
Your thoughts on Bangladesh-India rivalry? This rivalry has become intense lately, don’t you think?
India, apart from two or three occasions, always had the edge over us. There were glimpses of brilliance, but India always started clear favourites in all India-Bangladesh games in all formats about 4-5 years ago. But something very significant happened in the 2015 World Cup.
Bangladesh, in the quarterfinal of that tournament, restricted India to 121/4 in 30 overs. It looked like India were going to find it very tough to beat us. Rohit Sharma, of course, was our nemesis. But he at one stage miscued a full toss from Rubel Hossain to deep midwicket. But what actually happened came as a surprise to not only the players but also to commentators and cricket fans. The delivery was called a no-ball as the umpires decided that the ball was above Rohit’s waist height, which was not. Had Rohit been dismissed at that moment, the result of the match could’ve been different.
This controversial decision enraged the cricket fans all over the country. A lot of them thought and still think that the ICC has a bias towards India and the no-ball call was a conspiracy to keep India in the tournament, which definitely wasn’t. Suddenly the fans back home started to want revenge. Their desire was fulfilled when Bangladesh beat India in a bilateral series for the first time right after the World Cup. Since then, most of the encounters between Bangladesh and India went right down to the wire. Bangladesh came agonisingly close to beat India in the 2016 World T20 match, the Nidahas Trophy final and the 2018 Asia Cup final. They lost the T20 series 2-1 last year but posed a huge threat of winning the series against India in India. Players now are extremely pumped up when they play against India and they are always up for the challenge. Actually, that match against India in the 2015 World Cup started a new rivalry and we always get to see competitive cricket whenever these two teams meet especially in white-ball cricket.
Let’s recreate a dream XI of India and Bangladesh players only, you can choose the format and era of your liking.
I’m picking the cricketers whom I’ve watched play live.
Shakib Al Hasan
MS Dhoni (c/wk)