Tyger Tyger Burning Bright

My earliest cricket memory involving Bangladesh is a fine spell of pace bowling by Chaminda Vaas on Valentines Day in 2003 , in the first over of the game. The first batsman was out bowled , the second was caught and bowled and the third clueless fellow holed out to a future Sri Lankan cricket captain and followed the other two. It was and remains my favorite bowling spell from that tournament after Nehra’s 6/23 but a lot of people didn’t see it that way.

Every-time I brought up that particular Chaminda Vaas over , someone in the gathering would invariably end up saying “But that’s against Bangladesh yaar. What is so brilliant about a hattrick in the first three balls against Bangladesh !”. A few of them would nod politely , putting down my admiration for that spell as an eccentricity.

Such was the plight of Bangladesh in 2003 , that they couldn’t win a single match in the TVS cup that was hosted in their country. They didn’t win a single match that world cup , losing their opening game to Canada < a low even for Bangladesh> , before facing Sri Lanka and Chaminda Vaas in that opening over.

Bangladesh continued to be a part of my cricketing memories after 2003 , as a minor actor playing a minuscule role in the larger scheme of things : Gautam Gambhir made his ODI debut against them . So did Aavishkar Salvi who bowled a brilliant first over , took a wicket , promptly got injured and soon faded into obscurity. Ishant Sharma debuted against Bangladesh , so did Ramesh Powar , Joginder Sharma and this future Indian Captain and finisher extraordinaire by the name MS Dhoni.

In the mid 00s , a fixture against Bangladesh was seen as an ideal opportunity to hand out debuts to the youngsters knocking on the team door in an attempt to build their confidence. India often won these fixtures quite convincingly . Bangladesh won rarely if at all . There was that win in 2004 , followed by that world cup upset in 2007 and that Asia cup in 2012.They went on an emotional overdrive post their 2015 loss to India. Rohit Sharma was adjudged not out and Bangladesh as a whole cried foul. They won an ODI series soon after and that nascent switch was turned on. The Bangladesh of 2015 was way better than the Bangladesh of 2003 , 2007 and 2012 , but was so short of confidence that a third umpire’s decision caused huge outrage and an ODI series win resulted in celebrations of a rather unsavory nature.

Today , Bangladesh lost because of a splendid Rohit Sharma knock and some brilliant bowling by Bumrah at death. The bowling figures of Bumrah read 10-1-55-4 and he ended with a brilliant last over , taking two wickets in the last two balls , stranded on a hattrick.

The 48th over was and will remain one of my favorites from this world cup tournament and my preference for this spell will not be put down as an eccentricity , because Machi , Bangladesh could have won it ra but Bumrah came back after that injury scare , and bowled that peach of an over to keep Bangladesh out of reckoning . India beat Bangladesh in yet another world cup match , only this time , Bangladesh was not some 2 bit minor actor playing a side role in a tournament heavily favoring the big three. They came , they fought and they conquered hearts.

The Bangladesh of 2019 is a far better side than the Bangladesh of 2015 . They have won the games that mattered and came pretty close to winning a few others. They are no longer intimidated by huge targets. They have Shakib, Soumya and Litton in their ranks and a quiet confidence in their hearts.

Bangladesh were a champion side this world cup. They beat South Africa and West Indies convincingly and came very close to beating New Zealand and India. Bangladesh knows how to win and has started winning frequently. This is a side that takes its defeats and rain-outs in stride without resorting to national outrage. This is a side on the cusp of bigger and better things to come.

Long live the rivalry.

Dear Srinath,,

Dear Srinath,

Or should I really begin with dear Javagal , for to me there are two of you out there – Srinath , the mild mannered instrumentation engineer and Javagal , the wily , menacing pace bowler who used to outthink and outsmart the best batsmen on their day.

My first memory of you is from that titan cup match against Australia where you and Kumble fought against the odds like two clumsy circus fools finding their way through the tight rope. I think it was a few months after the 96 world cup and I had by then been firmly addicted to the siren song thats cricket. I don’t remember much about the match except for Sachin’s 88 and your partnership. I remember elders in my family joking that your families were probably chanting slokas nineteen to the dozen hoping that your luck continued to shine and took us across the finish line. I now realize that it was not luck but sheer determination that got us home that day.

My next memory of you comes from that Ahmedabad test few months later where I pleasantly surprised by the score card reading 0-2 thanks to you. I later learned that you were reverse swinging the ball that day , which is a skill thats still largely mastered only by our feuding neighbors. You became my hero after that spell but then you got injured the next year and fell of my pedestal which has been largely occupied by Rahul Dravid ever since.

I now understand that the 1997 injury was scary and that when you came back , you were not the bowler you were thanks to the Injury. At least this is what I keep hearing from peers and fellow cricket nuts at college . The next three years are frankly a blur. You missed quite a few matches but when you did play there were quite a  few good memories here and there  – A five for against New Zealand , the 200th wicket at Sharjah (?)  and then that comeback to the Indian side for the champions trophy final against Srilanka that was rained out. I still remember your figures from that first rained out final . You went for 6 odd runs and I was like no way this oldie is going to South Africa but prove me wrong you did and in such a spectacular way that I was forced to eat my words until that day in March about a year and half ago when you and Zaheer went bust against Australia. Maybe I should not have worn that India Jersey that day. If I hadn’t may be Javagal would have come out and made the opposition cry. But Javagal didn’t come back. He pulled up his boots eight months later without bowling a single ball after that final.

I have since gone back and read about the previous games. I’ve talked to my dad and my peers who have sung paens to you and have told me how effective you were in overseas conditions. They lament that you were overworked and you let yourself be abused in such a manner for the better of the country and they hope and pray that the same won’t happen to Zaheer ( who has come back from an injury)

Today , we won a test match in Bombay and Zaheer Khan bowled 8 overs and got two wickets and that was the extent of his spell. I wonder how many overs you would have bowled had you played today. I don’t know . I had no chance of knowing because you retired less than a year ago and I guess I will forever hold it against you for not avenging that defeat to Australia in South Africa .

I guess Zaheer will have to do it for you. He is not the experienced statesman that you are , not yet anyway. He is a left arm pace bowler  and you are a right hander. He was the terrific understudy and hunting partner but you were the elder statesman and the kingmaker. He leaked a lot of runs during that World Cup final and you leaked a lot of runs during that World Cup Final. However only one of you will play the 2007 world cup in the land of the calypso.

They tell me Zaheer is also an instrumentation engineer like you. They reassure me that Zaheer will grow and become better. They say that he has an abundance of natural talent that you lacked in and that they will write calypsos about Zaheer as he swings his heart out on our way to the final. That image makes me smile. I hope to god that statement comes true. I hope that Australia will make the final in 2007 , I hope and pray that we do too and in that final I hope for Zaheer to get those wickets and then thank you and say “This is our revenge” – and somewhere in the calypso that is written for Zaheer Khan , I wish for a line or two about you , praising your talent and lamenting the fact that it was recognized only when you were gone too long.

PS : Someday I hope to meet you. In my head it is always at a place bustling with people moving frantically , going about their day to day lives , like an airport lounge or a coffee shop.You would be going through your motions too , no longer the wily bowler who nearly won us a world cup . I will approach you with caution and introduce myself as a fan and then say “Thank you! Thank you for going on when the rest of us didn’t bother to acknowledge you . Thank you for going there and bowling your heart out and thank you for making sure we have fast bowling riches to be proud of.” and then I will walk away with the satisfaction of a fan who finally got the chance to acknowledge your feats and pay her dues.

PPS : Except for the postscript , this blog post was written sometime in November or December 2004 , after a test match win against Australia in Bombay . The only edits I did today was to correct the tenses used and update my dreadful punctuation.  When I wrote this blog post I did know about the pre 96 Srinath, but not a lot  and I did not know that Zaheer would become the great he did. I also did not know that we would fizzle out of 2007 WC the way we did. This post has been languishing in my blogspot drafts for more than a decade until a photo of Srinath shared by Sachin , nudged me along and made me revisit this . I am posting this unedited , as @ungaaya asked me to. I will probably publish a revised version later , adding to the pre-96 Srinath era that I am familiar with now thanks to youtube , ten cricket and all that Jazz. I will also edit the post for the things that have happened since Nov-Dec 2004.