Finally, the bat of Liton shines……
If Liton Das was a big believer in destiny, he would have been aware that the stars had aligned in his favour throughout the Asia Cup, eventually allowing him to flourish with a blistering 121 in the final of the tournament. The unfortunate injury to Tamim Iqbal in the very first game pushed Liton to hold on to his place despite a few failures, which could hardly have taken place if Iqbal was fit and churning out runs at will. However, the chance still had to be grasped; the opportunity had to be seized.
Watching the young player in his journey to the international cricket team had given a hint of the aura that Liton could stamp upon the cricketing realm. The cover drives that came off his willow were exquisite and the time that he had to play the ball displayed his self-confidence and inane ounces of talent. To suggest that he could possibly end up as one of the better players in the country would not have been a hyperbole, but the inability to stay on till the end and finish off an innings on a high could have been his undoing.
He could have ridden along in the Asia Cup in a similar fashion as well – promising immensely with a calm 42 ball-43 against Afghanistan – before squandering away a gifted moment, and it did seem like he was traversing down the path after he had been dismissed for just 6 against Pakistan. With scores of 0, 6, 7 before the assured knock of 42 to his tally, Liton risked not finding a place in the final XI in the next outings unless a drastic change in gears accompanied his intent. This time, he did not only have to start well, rather he had to resist the urge to play wild shots and go on to script history for himself.
Against India, along with an unlikely opening partner in Mehidy Hasan, Liton arrived at the crease with a formidable pace attack ahead of him. Jasprit Bumrah had the ability to increase the pressure with tight bowling up-front and Bhuvneshwar Kumar forced a batsman to make unforced errors. With the opener in iffy form, his stamina to withstand the threat of the two Bs looked questionable but a face of courage and a will of determination allowed him to create pressure on them instead.
By stepping out consistently to balls above the 140kmph-mark and smashing Bumrah – one of the most economical bowlers this year – for 23 runs off his three overs, Liton displayed that only solid talent and temperament can stand the sternest of tests. With Bumrah conceding heap loads of runs, the pressure had increased manifold on the Indian spinners, who had previously come in to bowl their overs at the back of a brilliant economical spell from the pacers. The Bangladeshi was in no mood to relent against them either, plotting his way to towering sixes even against the most accurate bowling.
As the face of Rohit Sharma bore a sombre look, the Bangla Tigers had a fear of their own. Liton had raced away to a well-made 50 off 33 balls but each run and stroke thereafter increased the anxiety of the impending doom even more. Which shot will cause his dismissal? How soon will he give in to temptation and lose attention? When will the now-common rash shot arrive that will send back Liton once more? A quick-fire start, all evaporating into the oblivion.
It arrived soon after. A mindless slog sweep off the bowling of Kuldeep Yadav towards mid-on. As it swirled in the air, the chance of disappointment was not hard to miss. Yet another well-made knock had been wasted. The inability of Liton to take up more responsibility when he was aware that the batting order was not yet sorted was hard to ignore, and as Liton started walking back, destiny held him back to present him with yet another momentous opportunity in this tournament.
As Yuzvendra Chahal was unable to latch on to the shot, and as Liton got yet another chance towards redemption, a silent thumping of the chest and a sigh of relief were what followed. The joyous celebration and the awareness that he had a possibility to become Bangladesh’s highest individual score maker in the finals of a tournament played around in his mind, and though he did reduce his individual run-rate after it, his presence at the crease when wickets were falling regularly gave off hopes.
He played down along the ground, picking his gaps with maturity, and ran the tight singles. He adorned the garb of an anchor and slowly but steadily raced away to his maiden hundred off 87 deliveries. A leap in the air and a huge smile writ large across his face, meant that Liton had arrived on the international scene. Finally.