Riyad, the calm slugger
Mahmudullah Riyad was at peace with himself yesterday. In fact he was so calm that his demeanour seemed a tad bit eerie amidst the frenzy of his teammates.
Mashrafe Bin Mortaza collapsed in excitement, Rubel Hossain crashed into the fans in the stands, Taskin Ahmed brought out the chainsaw, while Mushfiqur Rahim raised both his gloves and let out his classic roar. Riyad though was busy taking deep breaths and gently responding to questions in the post-match interviews. He seemed to be in a different groove altogether; almost as though he had attained nirvana.
The beauty of Riyad's achievement doesn't remain constrained within the record books. Yes; to be the first in the list of World Cup centurions is a great honour, however, the fact that almost no one had given him an ounce of a chance to reach the landmark makes this achievement a lot sweeter.
A year ago if someone had said that the lanky all-rounder was going to be the first Bangladeshi to score a World Cup century, you would have been certain that that person was either being sarcastic or that he was a distant relative of the Mushfiqur Rahim family.
Riyad's form, in 2014, was so appalling that a question regarding the player's inclusion in the side was brought up in almost every post-match press conference that year; and there was always an extra bite when the person responding to those questions was Mushfiqur.
His batting statistics were enough to depict the torrid time he went through. Prior to the Zimbabwe series, he averaged 12.7 with the bat in 2014. Riyad's life off the field had taken a hit as well. There were talks about how Riyad's good relationship with Mushfiqur apparently helped him to stay in the side; there were even memes made on facebook with regards to the issue.
He probably had to go through one of the most embarrassing moments of his career last year when a journalist, compelled by the more popular notion in the social media, went on to ask the player how he felt when people reckoned that his place in the side was preserved by the captain.
All Riyad did that day was smile and state that it didn't matter and that he was trying his best to recover. In fact that was his approach in almost all his interviews; which at times painted a monotonous picture for the player.
However, beyond the smile and the diplomatic answers was a huge amount of grit; a glimpse of which was first witnessed during his fighting half-century in West Indies. And by the time he reached Brisbane, he was in a different gear altogether. He had lost a huge amount of weight, he was timing the ball better, was playing at the top order and his performance gradually peaked.
He had two consecutive half-centuries against Zimbabwe under his belt by then and also performed well in the practice matches.
Against Scotland, he took over Tamim Iqbal's role and had become the aggressor and ended up scoring a fine 62. Yesterday, he ensured that he was there during the most crucial phases and let everyone play around him. In a sense, Riyad's step-by-step improvement in the last few months has been as astonishing as his slump in form in 2014.
Unlike Shakib Al Hasan or Mushfiqur, there wasn't any hurrah among the fans regarding Riyad's role in the Cup. Unlike Tamim or Anamul Haque, Riyad never stated his World Cup target on air. All he did was silently work on his technique and get himself out of the rut.
And that's fine because he has just guided Bangladesh to a win like no other.