“If we could have won the game and the series, I would have felt much better,” young Bangladesh opener Mohammad Naim thus rued the Tigers’ missed opportunity of making history in India on Sunday night.
The 20-year-old left-hander from Faridpur could have been the hero but his scintillating 81-run knock was overshadowed by India pacer Deepak Chahar recording the best ever T20I bowling figures of six wickets for seven runs in 3.2 overs in the series-deciding third T20I in Nagpur.
Therefore, the series ended 2-1 in India’s favour despite Bangladesh getting a dream start in their first multi-format tour of India, beating the hosts by seven wickets at New Delhi in the first T20I -- their first-ever T20I win against their Asian rivals.
Naim could not win the match but the rookie batsman won the hearts of many cricket fans. There were a few high points for the Tigers in the just-concluded series, especially the confidence shown by the youngsters in the absence of proven performers like Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal.
“Naim and [leg-spinner Aminul Islam] Biplob’s performance was a high point. The bowling unit had done well too. Mushfiqur Rahim’s match-winning performance, these were positives,” Bangladesh’s T20I captain Mahmudullah Riyad said after the disappointing 30-run defeat in the final game.
The two defeats, however, exposed where the problem lies with the shortest form of the game for the Tigers.
That was why Mahmudullah also lamented the fact that having started so well in the series, they were unable to take advantage when it mattered most. “We got the momentum when we won the first match and we feel that it [momentum] is Bangladesh team’s strength. Then we lost the series, so obviously it was disappointing,” he remarked.
The series had been preceded by earth-shattering incidents in the country’s cricket such as the players’ strike and Test and T20I captain Shakib being banned from all forms of cricket for two years, with one year suspended, for not reporting corrupt approaches by a bookie.
The focus also shifted to environmental factors like the Delhi smog after the Tigers reached India. However, Mushfiqur’s fantastic innings under pressure after the bowlers had put in a good effort, backed incredibly by the fielders, saw Bangladesh find self-belief through the gloom, ably led by new T20 captain Mahmudullah. If focus had been on the Delhi smog and Shakib’s absence, the win gave Bangladesh a cause for hope.
Having played so well, the Tigers wanted to finish the job in Rajkot but the wicket there favoured India’s strokeplayers and they leveled the series 1-1 with a convincing victory. Having built up so much momentum after the first match, the defeat in the second T20I in Rajkot -- with a cyclone threat looming -- was a definite setback with a dominant Rohit Sharma assailing Tigers’ middling score after they had been given a good start by the openers.
The team however showed a positive mindset ahead of the series-deciding third and final T20I. Despite a great start with the ball, with Shafiul Islam removing India openers Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan early, the game started to slip away following a few errors. The Tigers managed to stage a fightback to restrict India to 174 for five -- a challenging total that looked difficult to assail from the onset. Then Bangladesh lost two early wickets and what was difficult became almost impossible. The game continued in its seesaw manner, with the balance of power tipping from one side to the other. Resistance came from young Naim, playing in only his third T20I match, as the left-hander took the attack to the India bowlers and scored a magnificent 81 off 48 deliveries to take Bangladesh to a position of superiority in the game.
However, much like it has happened in recent times, the Tigers failed to adjust to the pressure situations and ultimately fumbled what would have been a historic first-ever T20I series win against India, losing their last eight wickets for 34 runs and handing the hosts a 30-run victory.
T20Is have never been a strong suit for Bangladesh, but with young players now making considerable impact, the India series could be seen as a positive stepping stone to prepare for the upcoming T20 World Cup in 2020.
For now, however, the Tigers will have to make a quick turnaround to face the mighty Indians in a two-match Test series, starting with the first match in Indore from November 14.