Friday, June 14, 2024

How long must we sing this song?

And it happens again. Only the harshest of hearts would not have broken a little at the sight of Shakib Al Hasan standing with shoulders slumped by his shattered stumps, a defeated man after trying so hard to yet again pull off a victory single-handedly. What happened at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium yesterday in the Asia Cup opener between Bangladesh and Pakistan was nothing less than criminal.
40 balls left, 39 to win and five wickets in hand. Easy equation? Not for Bangladesh and the fans knew it all too well, because it has happened again and again that Bangladesh take a winning situation and conspire to lose. It has happened too often and no longer can it be said that it is a young team and they lack experience. That is just not true.
Yes, the key wicket of Nasir Hossain had fallen at that point. But that is no excuse, because it is not asking too much of professional cricketers to play sensible cricket. A run-a-ball was needed, and all that was needed for the following batsmen was to give Shakib, who as usual was in full control of the situation, the strike and the match was in the bag. But sense is not a common thing in the Bangladesh camp.
First it was Abdur Razzak, a veteran of 130 ODIs. Instead of taking the single, he wanted to hit one out of the park, only to have his stumps splayed by Saeed Ajmal. Then Mashrafe Mortaza, with nine matches fewer than Razzak and a man dear to most cricket supporters in the country, who did the same when all he had to do was play out one ball and Shakib would have the strike next over. Two wickets in one over, the forty-fifth, and the dream shattered.
There is no conceivable justification for the way these two got out. Their first job may be bowling, but so is Pakistan pacer Umar Gul’s. What did he do? He rescued Pakistan from the travails of 198 for seven to lift them to 262. There again Mashrafe was culpable. After Gul had done the sensible thing and played himself in before launching into glory-grabbing shots, he was served a spate of full tosses by Mashrafe in the penultimate over, which cost 16 runs. All the good work was undone.
Mashrafe will take the defeat harder than most; he is a passionate cricketer who is fiercely proud to play for his country. It was his comeback match, but the least that can be asked of such an experienced cricketer is some common sense in crunch situations. All the experience in the world is not worth a dime without that. The same, sadly, is true of Razzak.
Credit must be given where due. It was a match in which the Tigers were on an even keel with a strong Pakistan side and even dominated parts of it. The bowling was disciplined till the death overs, and the fielding was largely good. Nazimuddin and Tamim Iqbal gave the team a good start in a challenging chase, and the brightest spot was Shakib and Nasir’s 89-run sixth wicket partnership that put the team in a winning position from the difficult situation of 135 for five.
But neither the scoreline nor the Asia Cup standings will reflect any of that. Not even Shakib’s role as the tragic hero, the last of seven batsmen to be bowled when the summit was visible but the rope had run out. Cricket is a team game, and if the eleven players cannot perform and do the simple things right in crunch situations, it’s a team only in name. One would hope that this lesson will be learnt, but that seems to be to be asking too much.

-With The Daily Star input

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