The little man’s courage transcended even the great heights of the Himalayas. Mushfiqur stood tall with his performances and inspired each individual in the team to push themselves beyond their limitations; to produce something special for the team and their country as a whole…..
The end result might not have gone their way but Asia Cup 2018 has been a tournament to remember for Bangladesh. They had their shortcomings and their share of mistakes as well. However, they fought hard, overcame their own limitations, learnt from their mistakes, battled their own demons and most importantly showed enormous courage to put up a fight every time in the face of adversity.
At the centre of all this was one little man who stood tall with his performances and inspired each individual in the team to push themselves beyond their limitations; to produce something special for the team and their country as a whole. That man was none other than Mushfiqur Rahim.
He couldn’t do well in the finale but that doesn’t take away anything from the way he single-handedly led Bangladesh’s batting charge throughout the tournament.
A courageous act that inspired an entire nation
It all started with his colossal innings of 144 runs in the tournament opener against Sri Lanka. It came in a situation when Bangladesh were in dire straits having lost Tamim Iqbal to a wrist injury to go with the two wickets of Liton Das and Shakib Al Hasan that had fallen in quick succession. Bangladesh were effectively three wickets down with just two runs on the board inside the first two overs and going by the history of Bangladesh’s performance in high-pressure situations, the end looked near for them.
Little did anyone know what was about to follow. Mohammad Mithun combined well with Mushfiqur Rahim to dig Bangladesh out of trouble but once he departed for a score of 60-odd runs, all hell broke loose with Mushfiqur stranded at one end. But the little man’s courage transcended even the great heights of the Himalayas that day.
Battling pain and injury to produce a mesmerizing innings
He was playing with a rib injury sustained during training. He had swallowed one pill of pain-killer after another just to ensure his participation in this all-important clash against Sri Lanka. And it was this kind of bravery that made the innings far more special. Add to that, Tamim Iqbal’s one-handed defiance to go along with Rahim’s mesmerizing innings—one in which he took apart each of the Lankan bowlers—it was something special that each of us witnessed that day.
“There is a crack in my ribs and certainly there is pain. But the way Tamim returned to batting was unbelievable because he had sustained a fracture and batted with one hand and I knew I had to do something special for him. We always have [same] dedication towards our team as we have won matches despite those injuries as in matches that we have lost [despite injuries], we had put the same amount of dedication. We always try to give our best because it is our responsibility,” Rahim had said after that match.
It showed how ferocious the wounded Tigers can be. It took Sri Lanka the final delivery of the innings to dismiss Rahim but the damage had already been done by then as it was proved later in the day; when the Tigers crushed the Lankan Lions by a massive margin of 137 runs.
“I can say at the moment that this is the best innings of my life so far. Basically, I want to win so many matches that I cannot keep any account of it. I will try to contribute more and more in our wins,” Rahim had added.
It was truly a terrific innings to start off the tournament. That innings represented the batting depth that Bangladesh had but little did anyone knows that it was also going, to sum up, Bangladesh’s shallow top-order prospects in the absence of Tamim and Shakib in the rest of the tournament.
A setback for Bangladesh
When Mushfiqur was rested in the next match against Afghanistan, Bangladesh suffered a humiliating defeat to them by 136 runs. In absence of Mushfiqur, Bangladesh had folded for just 119 runs in reply to Afghanistan’s total of 255 runs. Fortunately, that defeat didn’t affect Bangladesh’s chances of qualifying to the next stage as Sri Lanka were already knocked out of the tournament having lost both of its group encounters to Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Watching Bangladesh’s batting troubles, he had to return into the team for the super four games. The injury didn’t matter to him, what mattered was the pride and respect of his country. The situation was the same again. They were up against Afghanistan in the Super Four stage once again and had lost their first couple of wickets cheaply as usual. Rahim walked in and steadied the ship along with Liton Das. But he had to watch the collapse once again from the other end as Das and Shakib departed in quick succession with the score reading 81/4.
It was up to Mushfiqur once again who was batting on 33. The fans and the entire team were looking up to him to save the day for them but the unthinkable happened. He was run-out and Bangladesh lost its fifth wicket for just 87 runs. He seemed frustrated and devastated while leaving the ground but thanks to Imrul Kayes and Mahmudullah who saved the day lifting Bangladesh to a score of 249 runs with individual scores of 72* and 74 respectively. Bangladesh later won the match narrowly by just 3 runs and they were fortunate enough to win this match. Mushfiqur realized the dependence of their batting line up on him.
As Shakib was ruled out of their next match against Pakistan, Mushfiqur became even more determined not to give his wicket away easily this time. After all, this was a virtual semi-final and a loss would have gone on to cost them a spot in the final. The Bangladeshi top order owed Mushfiqur and their team a good performance at least in this match. But it was the same old story with their same old problems once again.
A Test of grit and determination all over again
Bangladesh lost their first three wickets for just 12 runs inside five overs and it was up to the duo of Mushfiqur and Mithun to dig them out of trouble; just like in the first match of the tournament. And they did respond with a 144-run stand which ended with Mithun’s dismissal for a well-orchestrated knock of 60 runs. Mushfiqur was once again at his best during the partnership. He attacked the bowlers but he ensured that he sailed through the tricky spells as well with grit and determination.
That innings was studded with some classy shots on both sides of the wicket and he was inching towards yet another century. He deserved one but all he wanted to was to bat all 50 overs in order to take Bangladesh to a total, which is capable of challenging Pakistan. But he had been dismissed just a run shy of his century with around 8 overs remaining in the innings as he edged one behind the wickets off Shaheen Afridi’s bowling.
Disappointment showed all over his face but that wasn’t because he missed his century. That was because off his inability to finish off the innings. Such was his spirit and it would make any of his teammates die for it. A total of 239 runs was all they managed in that match but the Bangladeshi bowlers backed up Mushfiqur’s performance once again as they restricted Pakistan to 202/9 and thus booked a place for them in the final.
A performance to be proud of
There was it. Their second consecutive and third overall appearance in four editions since 2012 and all they could ask for this time was to have the trophy in their hands. The opponent was tough. Beating a mighty Indian side is always a tough task in the final of any tournament for any team. But Bangladesh did make a match out of it. Although Mushfiqur stumbled in this last hurdle with the bat being dismissed for just 5 runs, he gave his best with his glove-work. He snatched two brilliant catches in the curse of the match to keep Bangladesh in the game.
His performance throughout this tournament finally inspired the top order to come good when it mattered the most. Liton Das was magnificent with his innings of 12 runs after his miserable performance throughout this entire edition. Only if they wouldn’t have collapsed like they did, may be they would have won the trophy as well.
But they have nothing to complain. They tried their best. They restricted the No.2 ranked ODI side in the world till the final delivery of the match. No one knew who was going to win until the final delivery was bowled. That in itself was probably no less for Bangladesh and Mushfiqur than winning the Asia Cup. Claiming the title would have been nice but they have done everything to be proud of.