Was he a Rick McCosker? Was he an Anil Kumble? No, he was Tamim Iqbal! Tamim’s courage and commitment while Mushfiq’s brilliant composure won the battle against Sri Lanka even before the Lankans started their second innings…..
Why do I watch cricket? I have asked this question many times to myself. My brain and heart gave me various answers. The most common answer had been ‘passion’. But as time progressed, I realized, passion alone cannot be the only reason.
As I tried to understand the game more, I realized, to fall in love with a game, one needs to understand the importance of intelligence, skill and courage factor of that particular sport. And, in cricket, all these factors are extremely important to assess the best from the good. These factors force you to watch the game closely, study it deeply and never lets you stop loving this game.
When the matter is about courage, no other ballistic sports test this better than cricket. Courage, at times, becomes the most important factor in deciding the winner.
The high voltage Centenary Test was happening at Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1977. It was the conquest of great fast bowlers – Dennis Lille, Max Walker, Bob Willis and Chris Old were just nemesis. It was all about big egos. England gunned down Australia for 138 in first innings, which did not charm the red-hot pacers of Australia. Lillee and Walker bowled out England for 95!
During Australia’s batting, Rick McCosker, the South Australian tried to hook Bob Willis too early and Willis’ thunderbolt hit his jaw. McCosker had to leave the field with a broken jaw. It was a blow for Australia, who were at risk of losing one batsman in the second innings. According to Greg Chappell, “It was a double blow, insult to injury, because not only did he get hit, but his wicket was broken as well, so he was out and knocked out”.
Knocked out? Hmm….Not really.
Australia’s reply in the second innings was shaky, but they continued to fight back. They needed more runs to challenge their arch-rivals, and to the astonishment of all present at the ground, McCosker reappeared at the crease with a bandage around his face to add crucial 54 runs with wicket-keeper Rodney Marsh. McCosker’s gallant effort rejuvenated Australia, who wanted to repeat the same result hundred years back at the historic MCG ground.
As Chappell said, “It was a pretty gruesome-looking sight when he came in, but mind you, it wasn’t a pretty sight when he went out to bat in the second innings with the head swathed in bandages and totally distorted by the bruising and swelling”.
“I’m sure the Englishmen would’ve been very surprised when they saw him walk out to bat. I never considered asking him to bat. He came and told me he wanted to. I wasn’t convinced it was a great idea, but he was firmly of the conviction that he was capable, that he should do it, and as the game turned out, we were grateful that he did”.
Derek Randall, the hard-nut-to-crack guy, stood firm and was proving to be the factor to deny Australia a victory at MCG. But McCosker’s gallant effort instilled the courage to break down any wall under any trying circumstances. Lillee did not let McCosker’s courageous and committed display go wasted. Australia beat England by the same margin of that first ever official Test in 1877!
The history of cricket has many such courageous stories. They have become a matter of inspiration for the students of the game. For many years, they have been providing brilliant topics for the writers around the world and still today, there are cricketers who are inspired to beat fear and walk towards the wicket to bat with one hand.
In Bangladesh cricket, when the matter is about exhibiting courage, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza hogs the limelight more. Of course, it would be unfair to forget the likes of Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah Riyad. But Mash’s courage to carry on with a body, which has undergone surgery several times, beats the boldness of others and rightly so.
But perhaps, Mash himself would agree, Tamim Iqbal’s reappearance to bat with a bandage on his left hand, has overshadowed his boldness to a certain limit tonight.
Tamim injured his wrist after being hit by a Suranga Lakmal bouncer. He left the field with Bangladesh in deep trouble and later on, he was ruled out of the ongoing Asia Cup in the Middle East. When Bangladesh lost their ninth wicket and three more overs to go, Tamim walked out to bat like McCosker did in 1977. He knew Mushfiq needed his support to swell the total and Tamim just hung out there and batted with one hand – a sight to make each and every Bangladeshi proud.
— Ali (@AleyFarooqq) September 15, 2018
Tamim’s presence was galvanizing. His courage was contagious. It simply led Mushfiq to switch to fourth gear as he fetched 32 runs in the remaining overs. It was an onslaught by a man, who did not take undue risks when he came out to bat almost two hours back. Mushfiq was all about a composed batsman, who played with soft hands and rotated the strike to graft partnerships with Mohammad Mithun and with those fragile characters who came and left as well. He did not give up when wickets were falling like ninepins around him, but motored the tattered Bangladesh innings.
But that composed Mushfiq stripped off his gentlemen-like-batting-style to unleash an onslaught, which simply bruised the Sri Lankans psychologically.
What can a batsman batting with one hand can assure? He can get out quickly. He can injure himself further and add more agonies. But, the most important thing they do and which is, they can lift the spirit of the whole team. The one-handed Tamim did just that.
Again, it was not just about a mere display of courage, but commitment as well. On many occasions, Tamim’s commitment was questioned. His laid-back attitude has been fired many times. But I don’t think after tonight’s gallant act, anyone would dare to point a finger towards his commitment.
The Tigers started off badly. They were down and out at one point, but no matter how badly you are stuck in a troubled situation, if any, of the teammates, display courage and commitment in the right way, that team cannot lose. Rightly so, Bangladesh just could not lose against Sri Lanka after showing the courage and commitment of highest quality.