The image of a dejected Shakib Al Hasan embracing Mushfiqur Rahim, who had broken into tears after a narrow two-run defeat against Pakistan in the final of Asia Cup in 2012 in Mirpur, will probably remain one of the most heart-breaking moments in Bangladesh cricket history.
It has been seven years since then and Bangladesh cricket has moved forward, adding a number of achievements to their belt. However, all the series win, ODI victories and even Test triumphs over the years could not fill one void -- winning a final of a major tournament. Till date, Bangladesh have made their way through to six tournament finals and, be it the ODI format or T20Is, the Tigers are yet to take the ultimate step.
It was back in 2009 when the Tigers first saw their hopes of winning a final shattered. It was then Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralidaran who had scripted Bangladesh’s nightmare singlehandedly. The vicious spinner punished Rubel Hossain for 20 runs in the 46th over on way to a career-best, unbeaten 33 off 16 balls that eventually helped the Islanders to a two-wicket victory.
After that it was the infamous heartbreak in Mirpur against Pakistan in the 2012 Asia Cup final, which was followed by an eight-wicket thumping at the hands of India in the Asia Cup final -- this time in the T20I format -- in 2016 at the same ground. A buoyant Bangladesh that booked their place in the all-important final after beating the likes of Sri Lanka and Pakistan had again fallen flat when it mattered the most.
The curse of not wining finals seemed to have intensified in 2018 -- a year that saw the Tigers lose three tournament finals. Starting with a 79-run loss to Sri Lanka in January during a tri-nation series final, Bangladesh were left devastated by India twice later in the same year.
While it was Dinesh Karthik’s unbeaten 8-ball 29-run cameo that snatched the Tigers’ dreams away in the final of the Nidahas Trophy in Colombo in March, a rather pulsating contest in Dubai saw Mashrafe Bin Mortaza’s side again suffer the same fate -- a three-wicket defeat -- during the Asia Cup final in September.
Today, Bangladesh have the opportunity to lift the curse when they take the field against the West Indies in the final of the ongoing tri-nation series in Dublin. This can be considered the best chance for Bangladesh to change their frustrating finals record for a few reasons.
Bangladesh have already defeated the Caribbean side twice, that too with ease, this tournament and there seems no reason why Mashrafe’s troops cannot do so again. Moreover, a West Indies side without the likes of Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Evin Lewis and Carlos Brathwaite could be the perfect prey for the Tigers to pounce on.
Bangladesh came into this tournament considering it to be the lead up to the World Cup in the United Kingdom and this could be the best opportunity for the Tigers to break their losing streak in finals and take a massive boost of confidence into cricket’s quadrennial event later this month.