Aminul Islam represented Bangladesh in 13 Tests and 39 ODIs between 1988 and 2002. He famously batted for just under nine hours in which he scored 145 in Bangladesh’s first innings in Test cricket against India in 2000. He led Bangladesh in 16 ODIs
It was only appropriate that Bangladesh’s memorable and unforgettable victory in its 100th Test revolved around three of its most consistent performers – captain Mushfiqur Rahim, who was at the opposite end when young Mehedi Hasan scored the winning runs, Shakib Al Hasan, whose century in the first innings was the cornerstone of the visitors’ decisive 129-run first-innings lead, and Tamim Iqbal, who set the tone for a four-wicket victory with a typically aggressive 82.
The three lads started their cricket journey at the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in Sri Lanka in 2006 and have been the architects of Bangladesh’s upsurge. However, this journey has not been easy as losses outnumbered wins over the years. It requires a lion’s heart to keep pushing and persisting day in and day out in quest for glory, as repeated defeats and disappointments can easily break one’s resilience and passion.
I am sure, like me, all Bangladesh cricket supporters still remember how Mushfiqur broke down in tears following his side’s two-run defeat against Pakistan in the Asia Cup final in Mirpur in March 2012. Those were the tears of someone desperate to taste success in a major event.
In this background, I am extremely happy and delighted for everyone involved with Bangladesh cricket, but mostly Mushfiqur.
The word ‘role model’ is often used – sometimes misused – in sports but if you really want to know the modern-day Bangladesh role models, then you can’t look beyond Mushfiqur, Shakib and Tamim.
The three players share about 150 Tests between them with Mushfiqur alone having played 54, including 30 as captain. So, it is fair to say that the trio has been the backbone of the second half of Bangladesh’s Test journey. And guess how many Tests Bangladesh has won since the emergence of these champions? Seven, a number that could easily have been in double-digits with more experience, particularly when playing in the second innings.
Anyone closely following Bangladesh’s recent Test performances will actually not be surprised with the Colombo result.
Bangladesh won the second Test against England in Mirpur earlier this season, but it could also have won the first one in Chittagong, which it lost by 22 runs. The team did well in the away series against New Zealand, and though it lost both Tests, it was not as if the team was not competitive. The same stands true for the one-off Test against India and the first Test of the ongoing series in Galle, both of which were decided on the last day.
Tamim Iqbal picks up the Man of the Match award for his contributions in both innings of Bangladesh's win over Sri Lanka pic.twitter.com/YT3fIghIEb— ICC (@ICC) March 19, 2017
The series against New Zealand, India and Sri Lanka were all played in different conditions, so it says something about the adaptability, potential and prowess of the side, which is now a very balanced outfit.
The most heart-warming thing is that the younger generation around Mushfiqur, Shakib and Tamim now knows how Test wins taste. Victories against England and Sri Lanka, both significantly experienced and higher-ranked sides, are enough to make the players realise that they actually belong to this league.
This sport is all about confidence, self-belief and not getting overawed by the opposition. This has been more evident since Bangladesh’s victory over England in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 match in Adelaide, which makes me even more optimistic and confident of the team’s bright future.
The success in Adelaide is now transforming into Tests. Test cricket is played more like One-Day International cricket since the advent of Twenty20 cricket with run rates of 3.5 per over very common. Because Bangladesh is good at ODI cricket, it is doing well in Tests too.
We often talk about the importance of dressing room atmosphere and bench strength. Well, all credit to coach Chandika Hathurusinghe, who has injected unity and harmony in the dressing room while eliminating the fear element, while consistency in selection policies means the bench is getting stronger with every match.
Bangladesh is a country of 165 million and everyone seems to be only talking about cricket. For a team to be successful, you need solid support from the government, spectators, sponsors and media – all of which Bangladesh is getting. I’m sure it will only become better with more success.
The Bangladesh cricket team is unique because it also has a different style to sub-continental teams like India and Pakistan. India has always had good spinners and some fast bowlers, while Pakistan has had fast bowlers and some spinners. Bangladesh has a mix of good fast bowlers and spin bowlers. Also, Bangladesh batsmen have a more unorthodox style of batting and are yet effective.
The P. Sara Oval victory is historic and I am sure a lot will be said and written in the days to come, which I look forward to hearing and reading, but let me politely remind everyone that ‘Mission Sri Lanka’ is not yet over.
The side will now take on Sri Lanka in five ODIs with automatic qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 up for grabs. Bangladesh did wonders and made its supporters proud when it qualified directly for this June’s ICC Champions Trophy 2017 after nearly 11 years, and if it can win the upcoming ODI series against Sri Lanka, then it will surely go a long way in sealing its position in the ICC Cricket World Cup as well as enhancing its reputation and profile as one of the most entertaining and crowd-pulling sides.
Bangladesh’s track record, both in ODIs and against Sri Lanka, is good. The momentum is with Bangladesh and its key players are firing. This is Bangladesh’s best chance to seal the World Cup spot in Sri Lanka and spend the next two years planning on its roadmap to Lord’s.