Liton Das has been one of the more maligned junior national cricketers in Bangladesh, because the perception is that he was wasting his considerable talent with the bat. To watch him play a cover drive and to witness that extra fraction of a second that he has to play the ball is to realise that he could grow to be one of the better batsmen produced by the country. However, seeing him throw away countless good starts with bad shots tempered those expectations considerably.
In the just-concluded Asia Cup, he took up the poisoned chalice of being Tamim Iqbal's opening partner -- a position that no one has been able to make his own despite being given enough opportunities. He scored a 42-ball 43 against Afghanistan in their Super Four game on Sunday, but as seemed typical then, he squandered the start with a wild slog sweep.
In Friday's final against India, Liton moved past all of that with a 117-ball 121 and showed why he has been persisted with. He also proved that, when it comes to possible candidates for the position of Tamim's opening partner, he is the first among equals. If he does make the transition, the innings provided a glimpse into how devastating an opening pair of Tamim and Liton could be.
India's pace attack is a formidable one, and the fiery Jasprit Bumrah had been allowed to settle into his rhythm thus far in the tournament. Liton however displayed that quality that is the bedrock of all batsmen for whom aggression is the modus operandi -- he backed himself to go after the opposition's most feared bowler.
Bumrah bowls above 140 kmph, but Liton repeatedly stepped out to him and hammered boundaries. Bumrah ended his third over, after Liton advanced down the wicket and hit the fast bowler off mid on, having conceded 23 runs. That put the pressure on India's spinners who had thus far come on and benefited from the pacers' economy in their opening spells. Liton took care of that, hitting leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal for big sixes, choosing his areas carefully.
But there was then the typical moment of madness when, just having completed his 50 off 33 deliveries, he went for a wild slog sweep off Kuldeep Yadav. This time, however, he survived as Chahal dropped the catch at mid on.
But what happened then was what will give fans the most hope. Liton saw skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza's chest thump from the dressing room asking him to stay strong, and the youngster responded. He chose to play mostly along the ground, picking areas shrewdly for his boundaries. As wickets started falling at regular intervals at the other end, Liton did not throw it away but actually slowed down to complete his maiden century off 87 balls. He kept batting responsibly before a marginal stumping decision, off a defensive shot, ended arguably the innings of the tournament.
It is early days yet, but if Liton can keep mixing his penchant for dominance with thoughtful batting, it will be an auspicious development for Bangladesh cricket.