Hello and welcome to DRS, my very own take every fortnight on the world of cricket. This week I thought we would focus on the Asia Cup, and more specifically on the team that really took the tournament by storm – Bangladesh.
That's right. Until the other day, we thought Bangladesh were the whipping boys of cricket, but they have shown in the Asia Cup that they certainly are no pushovers and can compete with the best in the world, or certainly the best in Asia.
They beat Sri Lanka comprehensively, they beat us [India] in a good tight match and they ran Pakistan close. Until the very last ball, they had a chance of winning the Asia Cup. Clearly Bangladesh have emerged as a country with a potential to finally prove themselves among the best in the game.
There was a time when I thought Bangladesh didn't deserve to be a Test playing nation. They were really no better than Ireland. But something has clearly changed.
Bangladesh now have world-class cricketers like Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, and it appears that they finally have the self-belief to take on the best in the world. What really, though, has changed? Could it be the introduction of an Australian coach in Stuart Law? Well, not quite. Bangladesh have had Australian coaches and foreign coaches in the past, and it didn't make any difference to their cricketing fortunes.
Bangladesh in the past have had individuals like Mohammad Ashraful, who have shown flashes of brilliance. What to my mind has changed is that the Bangladeshis have finally embraced cricket as their No. 1 sport. As a result of that, we saw a tremendous enthusiasm around the Asia Cup. Bangladeshis finally believe that cricket is their sport.
They have embraced it in a true subcontinental style, and I think that has made the difference. We saw a large crowd coming to the games of the recently concluded Bangladesh Premier League. I think it's important that once a game achieves a critical mass support, then the money starts flowing in. With money comes professionalism and with professionalism quality cricketers, who can last the course, are thrown up. And I think all that is coming together for Bangladesh.
Really, you would have thought that football would be the No. 1 sport in Bangladesh, given that the enthusiasm that you have for football on the maidans of Kolkata. But clearly, Bangladeshis have decided to take a different trajectory.
Football is clearly not their No. 1 sport, but cricket is. It's patronised by politicians and business houses, and I think somewhere down the line we finally have in Bangladesh a cricket model, a sense of enthusiasm and exuberance for the game, which in recent times was missing in the sport across the subcontinent.
We certainly play too much cricket in this country. Pakistan, tragically, cannot play cricket at home because of the conditions, domestic situations out there. Sri Lanka have lost their way in a sense, particularly in the post [Muttiah] Muralitharan period. Bangladesh, on the other hand, seem almost ready to take on the best in the world. And I think, in that sense, we have to celebrate what happened in the Asia Cup.
The best thing that can happen for subcontinent cricket is to have four powers in the game. It would be great if Bangladesh, sooner rather than later, are given a full series. Even if not a full Test series, then certainly a full one day international series, either in Pakistan or in India. That would really trigger even more enthusiasm among the Bangladeshi crowd.
Let me say on a personal note that my brother-in-law is a Bangladeshi. He lives in Singapore and was up through the night watching every game. He said the best day in his life was the day when Bangladesh beat India. It seems ironical. There would have been no Bangladesh had former Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi not stepped in, in 1971. Today Bangladesh is rejoicing at the idea of defeating India. I guess the wheel has come a full circle, almost 40 years later.