Imrul revels in crisis
Known as the comeback man of Bangladesh cricket, opener Imrul Kayes delivered his best when it mattered.
The left-hander, who became a first-time father just a fortnight ago, struck his third ODI hundred and celebrated the feat with a cradle celebration dedicated to his son Suhaib Bin Kayes on way to scoring a career-best 144, the joint second-highest ODI innings by a Bangladesh batsman.
However, just a month ago Imrul was not even in the national reckoning. After being initially left out of the Asia Cup squad, his fortunes changed when he was flown to the UAE as emergency reinforcement and he grabbed the opportunity with an unbeaten 72 against Afghanistan as a last-minute inclusion.
When asked whether the pressure of him going in and out of the team helped him play well, Imrul said: "I believe in one thing -- that if you work hard you will get the reward. I have learned a lot from Mushfiqur [Rahim] as his hard work has brought him to this stage. I always try to follow what he does," Imrul said during the post-match press conference yesterday.
He also rated the Asia Cup performance more than yesterday's. "It  is one of the better innings of my career, but my innings against Afghanistan was badly needed for the team. Ultimately when you play well, it helps the side and today's [Sunday's] innings helped rescue Bangladesh," he said. "But this innings was a turning point for me and it was needed."
Playing in crisis mode is nothing new for Imrul. But the situation yesterday was perhaps more difficult than in Abu Dhabi because he did not have a senior batsman with him after Bangladesh fell to 139 for six.
"I was a bit nervous early in the innings. It was not happening the way I wanted to at the start and at one point I had to struggle because it was tough to play the drive with the uneven bounce on the pitch. Whenever I thought of playing strokes there were wickets falling and I kept myself in check and wanted to bat till the end then see what happens as I knew 240-250 is a good total here," said Imrul.
His record seventh-wicket 127-run stand with Mohammad Saifuddin helped post a fighting total of 271 for eight.
"I tried to give confidence to Saifuddin at the other end and nothing else as the wicket was tough. I was not saying anything negative and tried to keep things normal rather and told him to play it like a league game," he added.
His innings continued to set him apart from the younger players as he showed the ability to knuckle down and play big innings. It also showed once more that when the stakes are high, for him or the team, he has got the game and temperament to rise to the occasion.
"The situation was tough as if I got out my team would have been in trouble, so I tried to stay till the end. I was feeling very good and I had the confidence that I could hit anywhere in the ground, which happened. Obviously when you play big innings it will encourage the youngsters and they will see what happens in such tough situation. They can learn from this," said Imrul.