ICC Championship with many a surprise

Dhaka,  Fri,  18 August 2017
Published : 16 Jun 2017, 21:01:13
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A CLOSE LOOK

ICC Championship with many a surprise

ICC Championship with many a surprise
Nilratan Halder
At the start of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Championship, the odds were against teams like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for understandable reasons. Pakistan, as usual, were unpredictable but the general consensus was that they were hardly going to make it to the semi-finals, let alone the final. Apart from the ranking that heavily favoured teams like South Africa, Australia, India and England to complete a possible semi-final lineup, the preparatory matches played just before the tournament were indicative enough of the likely outcome. Only one match of a tri-nation competition involving New Zealand, Ireland and Bangladesh, in which the Tigers beat the Kiwis gave an indication otherwise. But then, the one-sided match against India brought the Tigers down to earth. On English soil three teams in the semi-final are from the Sub-continent. The pitches behaved unlike those in the past. No sizzling swings and the venomous bounces. There were runs in most of the wickets.

However, early indications may be deceptive and those indeed were. But not until the matches where the underdogs turned the table on the overwhelming favourite. Of course, rain played a crucial role in this tournament. The heavenly showers deprived the Kiwis of a possible victory against the Aussies. Then it was the turn for Australia to suffer at the hands of rain. Another four overs would have earned them a win against Bangladesh. The Tigers thus were lucky to have a date with destiny against the Kiwis. And that was the match of all matches for Bangladesh in all competitions. At four wickets down for 34 runs, hardly anyone had the heart to bet on them (almost everyone had given up on them). But then Sakib and Mahmaudullah each played an innings of their lifetime. The partnership of 224 runs the duo scored was the highest in any international competition for Bangladesh and the third overall by any team ever.

So luck alone will not explain Bangladesh's place in the semifinal. The Tigers were brave and fortune favours the brave. That the Tigers are in the semi-final is no fluke. It is representative of the team's coming of age. Bangladesh have already earned respect from their opponents and fans all across the globe. They surely deserve it. Who could think of a tournament so wide open. It was because of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka along with Pakistan, the most erratic and inconsistent team in the fold, that this championship suddenly discovered that there was no favourite except England, the host country which had its semi-final berth with two wins at a trot. Of course, credit also goes to this team for sending the Aussies home. But then the English Lions were slain by Pakistan at Cardiff where the sub-continental teams have a better records than anywhere on the isle.  

However, if the tone of the tournament set in the first round  persists, the English so desperate to possess at least one international trophy had no reason to be complacent. After all, at this level anything can happen. On a given day, it is the rhythm and temperament of a team that can decide the fate of a match against the so-called invincible opponent. How else can one describe the match between India and Sri Lanka which lost so miserably to South Africa? On that particular day, India's 321 runs would have looked formidable enough for a team that had been humbled by S Africa. But lo, on the day Sri Lanka batted like the champion team paying scant regard to the most balanced bowling side of the tournament. Jadeja who is a smart bowler and most effective in such tournaments received merciless thrashing without success.

Now it was the turn for the favourite English to bite dust. Their form deserted them on a pitch that gave no guile and odd bounces to the ball. Pakistan simply followed the age-old tactic of bowling at consistent line and length. This clinched the day for them. Alongside rains, toss and pitch, behaving at times differently in the first and second innings, have also played a vital role. So, Bangladesh's chance cannot be ruled out. (At the time of going to the press, Bangladesh were 191 for 5 wickets). Either way, it is going to be two teams from the sub-continent, who will fight for the trophy.

Last but not least, this ICC championship has not seen the explosive opening of yesteryears when Sanat Jaysurya and Kaluwitharana opened the innings for Sri Lanka, Sachin and Saurav Opened for India. Actually, the first 10 overs accounted for a hundred or more runs. In T20 matches such things are a more likely outcome but then why cannot the explosive batting of T20's hey days be brought into action in a tournament like this?  The excitement is somewhat subdued on that count but for Bangladesh supporters, it will be more than compensated if the Tigers can clinch a place in the final and then beat the inconsistent Pakistanis.
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