Performers, be they on stage, in front of television cameras or on the field of play, sometimes talk about 'love the mess' -- in other words revelling in the scenario when things spin out of control -- in order to survive the chaos. Bangladesh are certainly in a chaotic situation in the UAE in their Asia Cup campaign, and just before today's final against top-ranked India, skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza seemed to have started embracing the bedlam.
“In this tournament we surprised ourselves and you folks as well. There were different players at different times in different positions,” Mashrafe laughed as he answered a reporter's question about team composition. “Anyway, it was more to do with being a victim of circumstance. With Shakib [Al Hasan] not there, you might see someone [opening the batting] tomorrow who has never opened. We are prepared for everything and I am also asking you to be prepared.”
The Asia Cup has been a trial by fire -- or at any rate intense Middle Eastern heat -- for Bangladesh. They lost opener and highest run-getter Tamim Iqbal with a left-hand fracture after the first match, had to contend with confusion surrounding the group placements and scheduling that seemed to be a product of organisers favouring India, and then the loss of ace all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan.
While Mashrafe, always an upbeat person, at times cut a forlorn figure in the middle stages of the tournament when they lost abjectly to Afghanistan and India. But then, on Sunday in the three-run win over Afghanistan, things started improving even as they appeared to become more pear-shaped. Opener Imrul Kayes was flown in to bolster a weak opening partnership, but Mashrafe decided to bat him at number six for the first time in his life, and he scored 72.
On Wednesday, after Shakib was ruled out, Bangladesh still managed to win against Pakistan, having to play with a bowler less. Part-time medium pacer and the other opener flown in, Soumya Sarkar, made up for that handicap with a fine bowling performance and took a wicket, shockingly, with a bouncer.
Roles have been redefined and Mashrafe seemed to be revelling in the madness of it all.
Seen from a wide angle, this topsy turvy state has hardly come out of the blue. Tamim suffered the fracture in the 11th ball of the tournament against Sri Lanka. Even though he came back to the dressing room with his left arm in a sling, Mashrafe urged the opener to go out at number 11 to enable Mushfiqur Rahim to score as many runs as possible. Tamim had the gumption to follow the order and played a ball one-handed, contributing to the 137-run win.
That single bit of courage and flexibility seems to have infected the whole squad throughout a tournament of highs and lows.
“Frankly, when Tamim took the field with a broken hand, to me I had won the Asia Cup right then,” Mashrafe said with a smile.
If he can keep embracing the chaos and thinking out of the box, there may actually be more to smile about today.