The kid's grown up: lessons for Indian cricket from Bangladesh
- Star Sports\' promo for the series showed Bangladesh as a little kid who struggles at cricket.
- The kid later helps his team win, to the astonishment of the big boys.
- Bangladesh convincingly beat India in the first two ODIs to clinch the series.
- The star of the show is 19-year-old pace bowler Mustafizur Rahman, who takes a record 11 wickets.
- The Bangladeshi crowd taunts the Indians owing to animosity from the World Cup quarterfinals.
- MS Dhoni refuses to quit as India captain.
- He tells the media he would only step down if it would guarantee India\'s success.
- Former cricketers feel the defeat will be difficult to swallow, but maintain that Dhoni should be retained.
- Bangladesh has grown up and become a good side.
The key issue facing India after its defeat against Bangladesh is not whether Mahendra Dhoni should carry on as captain but to accept that Bangladesh has grown up and become a cracking good team.
It was always difficult to generate excitement around Bangladesh-India matches. Anything other than an Indian win qualified as an upset, and while there was the odd shock result, by and large, the teams played according to expectations.
So when India decided to tour Bangladesh this month, how did the broadcaster, Star Sports, raise the excitement? Well, Bangladesh showed during the World Cup that they were on an upward trajectory so, rather than continuing in the vein of the jingoistic 'Mauka, Mauka' ads from the World Cup, Star decided to use patronising wit and symbolism.
The promo for the series portrayed Bangladesh as a young and eager kid in the park, who always wants his turn to show how well he can play, but fails in front of the big boys. "Bachcha hai baccha - isse khel na aaye (he's a kid, he doesn't know how to play)," rings the music in the background.
But one fine day, the kid finally announces himself, winning the match for his team, prompting the others to declare with frustration - "Yaar, bachcha bachcha nahi raha (the kid is no longer a kid)."
Not a big surprise
It's probably just what Mahendra Singh Dhoni and company are thinking after losing the first two matches of the three-match ODI series, marking India's first series defeat to their eastern neighbours. To put the cherry on top of the cake of irony, it's a 'bachcha', 19-year-old pace bowler Mustafizur Rahman, who blew away the mighty Indian batting line-up on both occasions.
Like the kid in the promo, Bangladesh has grown up. The big boys must acknowledge that they're kids no more
Mustafizur took 6/43 - to add to his 5/50 on debut in the first game - to help Bangladesh restrict India to 200 in 45 overs. He became only the second bowler to take five-fours in his first two innings after Zimbabwe's Brian Vitori, and surpassed him in terms of wickets taken - 11.
Bangladesh comfortably chased down the revised target of 200 in 38 overs, winning the game by six wickets after having routed the visitors by 79 runs in the first match.
Dhoni still defiant
Though he probably sensed that there would be a backlash that accompanies any such series defeat, Dhoni remained defiant. He said at the post-match press conference that he would step down as captain only if it would guarantee India's success.
"I am really enjoying my cricket. If it is justifiable, if you remove me (as captain) and the Indian cricket team will start doing well, and if I am the reason for all the bad that's happening to Indian cricket, definitely I would love to step away and play as a player," he said.
But that's just Dhoni's inimitable way of dealing with the press, whom he has never trusted. In truth, the skipper would probably acknowledge that his team of big boys was shown up by the kid who, 15 years after debatably gaining Test status, was finally beginning to grow up.
Rivalry in the making
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza was asked if this was revenge for exiting the World Cup at the hands of India in the quarter-finals, which led to protests and an insinuation, from none less than the then-ICC president, Bangladeshi Mustafa Kamal, that the umpires had favoured India.
But Mortaza played it down. "Revenge shouldn't exist in sports, we are all humans with families. We all play cricket. The question of revenge can't be considered here," he said.
However, the aggression with which the Bangladeshis took to the pitch this time around suggested differently. Kamal, who later quit the post and blamed ICC chairman N Srinivasan, the former BCCI president, would've been proud of the way the 'Tigers' responded to the perceived injustice.
The crowd at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka, also didn't spare the Indians. Chants of 'Mauka, Mauka' rang out to taunt the Indians, and the 'bachcha' ad was played in the stadium after the victory.
Joy has swept through the country's cricket-mad public, and the third ODI on Wednesday, though a dead rubber, won't be short on spice either, as the team goes for an unprecedented whitewash. It looks as though a rivalry is taking shape, and future series may not lack needle, as they did in the past.
India always hesitated to send their full-strength team to Bangladesh, but this time it was different. Yet, the selection of the XI left fans scratching their heads. Neither Ambati Rayudu, who played in place of Ajinkya Rahane, nor Axar Patel, who was picked over Mohit Sharma, did anything of note.
The rest didn't set the world on fire either. While the likes of Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan got starts, none went on to get a big score. Mustafizur kept the Indians guessing with his changes of pace, to which Suresh Raina fell victim in the first game and Dhoni in the second.
Former India opener Chetan Chauhan acknowledged that the series defeat was a big blow.
Captain Dhoni remains defiant and says he'll step down as captain only if it can guarantee India's success
"It will take time to recover. Bangladesh surprised us, didn't they? Our boys did not show any intent while the Bangladesh players' body language was excellent," he told PTI.
Chauhan is right - to the casual observer too, Bangladesh looked hungrier in every department, while India looked complacent and sluggish.
For the time being, though, the heavyweights of Indian cricket feel Dhoni should continue in the hot seat.
Former India wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani said: "I would like to continue with Dhoni. He's a great performer. You need not be harsh on him just because he lost a series to Bangladesh. It's just a passing phase. I think there's always a general feeling that a captain should be removed. All these things come up when a captain loses a series or is in bad form."
Ex-India captain Dilip Vengsakar agreed. "I don't think Dhoni should be replaced. He recently led India to the World Cup semi-finals and this series is the first series after that."
Lessons to be learnt
Given the shock of the defeat, it's easy to forget that this Indian team made it to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand three months ago, when many were concerned that it wouldn't even reach the quarters.
The team is still ranked No. 2 in the ICC ODI rankings, but seemed a pale shadow of itself in Mirpur.
This team doesn't require a lot of chopping and changing, though it would be good if some players who haven't had a standout performance in a while, like Ravindra Jadeja, were put under the scanner.
It's also imperative that the lack of clarity on India's next head coach gets resolved soon, so that whoever it is can take over and put his stamp on the team.
As for the countless fans of the Indian team, it's a bitter pill to swallow. But they showed maturity in admitting that Australia were the better team in the World Cup semi-finals, and appreciating the achievements of Dhoni and his boys.
They must do so again now. There's no shame in losing to the kid in the park who has grown up and performed brilliantly.