Victory from a mother of victory
SPORTS have such a universal appeal and magnetism that the Berlin Olympics staged by Hitler in 1936 turned out to be a picture-perfect event. Although there were murmurs of reluctance among some big countries to join it, they ended up doing it all the same. Owen from the USA clinched four gold medals.
Remarkably, another real-politik compulsion had been set aside under the spell of a competitiveness mantra to excel over each other in the world sporting arena. This is attested by the fact that even though Soviet Union was born in 1917, it was not until 1952 that the communist countries were able to take part in the Olympics.
Nearer home in South Asia, we have seen cricket diplomacy at work. Pakistan's military dictator General Ziaul Haq, who died in a mysterious air crash, dashed to Jaipur to watch an Indo-Pak cricket match during the Rajiv Gandhi era in 1987. It was a calculated diplomatic overture reportedly prompted by Soviet Union in the face of the deteriorating Afghan situation.
Recently, on the eve of World Cup Cricket, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did a bit of Saarc diplomacy. He wrote letters to heads of government of countries taking part in the greatest cricket spectacle in four years wishing them good luck.
We often talk about the fruits of national independence 44 years since our attaining it; sometimes lamenting over unfulfilled aspirations, and at other times relishing what we have been able to achieve. Benchmarked to where we had been pre-1971, we are much better off in almost all parameters of socio-economic development today. That, not only compared to Pakistan alone, but a few other South Asian countries as well.
Take sports, particularly in cricket before 1971, a Bangladeshi player couldn't see beyond the 12th man slot in Pakistan team.
From this standpoint, our quarterfinals berth in the World Cup series is a niche carved entirely by virtue of being an independent country. Elated that we must be over the success thus far; its heady wind must not get to our heads. We cannot go gaga as though we have moved into the semifinals, far less within any striking distance of lifting the World Cup.
Recall here that in the West Indies World Cup 2007, Bangladesh entered the last eight by defeating India and South Africa. That was no small achievement either.
Nevertheless, Bangladesh has taken 15 years since acquiring the Test status to make it to the quarterfinals. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, over a similar 15-year time-span between 1981, when it had acquired Test status and 1996, when it leapfrogged to winning the World Cup beating Australia. So what Sri Lanka had attained in 15 years we have only crossed quarter of the way in that long a period. That defines the configuration of the task ahead for our cricketers and the game management.
Bangladesh compares well with New Zealand minus its present devastating form. New Zealand became a Test playing country in 1930 but it had to wait 26 years to record a Test match victory. Further two decades on, it has clinched victories over its traditional rivals England and Australia.
On a savoury note you marvel at the improvement in the quality of pace bowling in the Bangladesh side -- both in terms of speed and the tricks played with seam, swing and block-hole deliveries. The nucleus is well-formed, a fusion straddling batting, bowling and fielding proficiencies has now to be effected.
An Australian FM Band Radio made a teasing remark: "Bangladesh saves itself an embarrassment after a late surge in performance against minnow England."
Not all comments have been as hilarious; in fact, the Bangladesh team from time to time has been, for the love of hell, been reserved for taunts and snide remarks from some commentators and even players of repute. These were not certainly the stuff that constructive criticism is made of! For instance, an otherwise personable Sir Geoffrey Boycott, now 74, who had watched the England-Bangladesh encounter didn't have any praise for the performance of the Bangladesh team. To him, England didn't play well, full stop. He was at the vanguard of critics who thought Bangladesh shouldn't have had Test status at the time it did.
I find it in bad taste to refer to a chatty Pakistani commentator's two points: One, the size of some Bangladeshi cricketers Mushfique and Sunny and the other his favourite dig at Bangladesh not getting its act together at crunch time. But this time when he was talking about the 'crunch time' failure, Bangladesh was actually coming together putting England on the defensive.
Instead of encouraging an improving side to go the extra mile, such people revel in delivering pinpricks for which the perpetrators should have compunction rather than those at the receiving end.
The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.
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