Liton Das and Soumya Sarkar typify the young Bangladesh batsman -- full of talent, but often prone to throwing away good starts. Yesterday in the Asia Cup, in different ways, they batted against type and took on responsibility -- Liton with a fabulous 121 and Soumya with a rearguard of 33 -- but it was the much-feted senior batsmen who seemed to have taken on the unwanted attributes of the much-maligned juniors.
Throughout the Asia Cup the Bangladesh team have had to adjust, adapt roles and at times reinvent the wheel. Most times -- like playing opener Imrul Kayes at three against Afghanistan, taking the gamble of playing with four bowlers after Shakib Al Hasan was ruled out against Pakistan -- skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza's imaginative risk-taking came off as he kept reassigning roles and employing left-field measures to suit the situation.
It worked initially yesterday in the final too when bowling all-rounder Mehedi Hasan Miraz opened the innings, shocking everyone including the Indians, who watched as a sublime Liton flayed their bowling and built an opening stand of 120 -- their previous best in five matches was 16 -- with his unlikely partner.
However, the revelling in chaos ended there. The surprise decision to open with Mehedi was taken to circumvent the top-order batting collapses that had become the norm in the tournament. At different stages of the tournament Mushfiqur Rahim, Mohammad Mithun, Imrul and Mahmudullah Riyad had to rescue Bangladesh from dire straits and take them to winning situations. Mehedi, who has a solid technique and the ability to follow instructions, was tasked with staying at one end and freeing Liton up to indulge in his strokeplay.
The plan was to build a good start and let the middle order do what they usually do -- score the bulk of the team's runs. The first part had been accomplished, but after Mehedi's departure for a well-made 59-ball 32 and with Liton showing all his ability in reaching 86 off 66 balls, the seniors Bangladesh had relied so heavily upon batted like the juniors everyone likes to pick on. Imrul was adjudged leg-before when he missed a sharp turner from leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, but the manner of Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah's dismissals would have hurt Bangladesh most.
With Liton batting beautifully and having just gotten the big opening stand they so desperately craved, common sense would have dictated that the experienced Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah support Liton and create a launching pad till the 40th over. However, Mushfiqur fetched a half-tracker from outside off stump and tried to hit a six off his ninth delivery and was caught.
After Mithun was run out, a dismissal that had to do as much with Ravindra Jadeja's brilliance at cover as a mix-up with Liton, Mahmudullah was even more culpable as he was the last big batsman. He slogged Jasprit Bumrah towards square leg, again trying to hit a six with a batsman in form at the other end, and was caught.
Liton, meanwhile had curbed his instincts after a rush of blood saw him dropped on 52, choosing his shots carefully and hitting two sixes where fielders were not positioned. Soumya held the innings together after his seniors' brain fades, helping them cross 200 as they lost 10 wickets for 102 runs in 27.4 overs.
But in a campaign that showed Bangladesh's adaptability, the wrong kind of that same quality from the seniors cost them a golden opportunity.