India vs Bangladesh More Exciting than Ind-Pak, Time We Accept It
Pakistan have never beaten India at the World Cup in seven matches. Bangladesh succeeded in their first attempt.
At Port-of-Spain On 17 March, 2007, when India’s World Cup hopes died, a rivalry was born.
Rivalries are exciting because they aren’t dictated by statistics but rather defined by emotions. Organic sporting rivalries in cricket are hard to find and take years to evolve; like a pot boiling on a slow flame till it spills over.
Virender Sehwag, in a recent interview, described India’s opening encounter of the 2011 World Cup against Bangladesh as a “revenge match” and explained how the infamy of the 2007 loss motivated him to score a mammoth 175 before a partisan Dhaka crowd.
The Bangladesh team and its fans have fuelled the fire just right to keep that pot boiling. The cricketers have not only raised their game to emerge as the second best ODI side in Asia but, along with their fans, have reserved their most unfettered emotions for matches against India. What we have, as a result, are nail-biting finishes, drama on and off the field and top quality cricket.
India’s rivalry with Pakistan, on the other hand, is a pale shadow of what it used to be in the 1990s and early 2000s. Today it appears to be artificially propped up by a historic inertia of the days of Kapil-Imran, Saqlain-Sachin or Sehwag-Akhtar and fuelled more by political developments off the field.
Here then, are five ingredients that have enabled India versus Bangladesh clashes to overtake India versus Pakistan as the more exciting sub-continental rivalry to watch.
News publications have long dropped words like “upset” and “minnows” from their headlines whenever Shakib & Co defeat a higher-ranked country.
They beat India 2-1 at home in 2015 just months after the last world cup. Six months later in March 2016, India escaped by the skin of their teeth, by 1 run at the T20 World Cup in an encounter that Bangladesh may still feel they deserved to win.
At the Asia Cup final in September 2018, it was neither Pakistan nor Sri Lanka but Bangladesh that squared off against India. Long discounted as “easy game,” Mortaza’s boys have succeeded in channeling their seething anger to ensure India takes notice of them.
High On Drama
Remember that time a fan photoshopped Bangladesh pacer Taskin Ahmed holding Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s severed head ? Or that time when Bangla keeper Mushfiqur Rahim tweeted in celebration after India’s defeat to West Indies in the semis of the T20 World Cup in 2016? Or the one where Virat Kohli and seamer Rubel Hossain had an epic stare-down with Kohli rattling off some unsavoury words at the bowler.
India versus Bangladesh encounters have provided enough drama to intensify the rivalry.
In comparison, how many moments can the average fan recall against Pakistan in recent years? India’s last three World Cup clashes against Pakistan have been more one-sided than the screaming prime time debates on news channels.
Can you rattle off Pakistan’s XI at a go? What is Haris Sohail’s primary role in the team? Who is Asif Ali ?
For the average cricket fan, a personal association with Pakistani cricketers and their abilities has long ebbed. Unlike a Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan or even a Misbah-ul-Haq, names like Fakhar Zaman or an Imad Wasim evoke little emotion, fear or wariness.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, are playing the World Cup with an experienced core that was part of the team that beat India in 2007. Be it all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, opener Tamim Iqbal, keeper Mushfiqur Rahim or seamer Mashrafe Mortaza, they have all tormented India over the last decade and hence grown into familiarity.
At a time when Pakistan is bereft of a break-out star in their side, Bangladesh has a bonafide star in Shakib and an emerging one in pacer Mustafiz-Ur-Rahman.
Hunger in the Belly
What gives the India versus Bangladesh rivalry its edge is the hunger among Mortaza’s men to prove a point against India. This singular motivation is evident in the team’s body language and at their disappointment in losing to India. As a result India, too, is pushed into raising its game to stay ahead over their rivals.
Dinesh Kartik had to literally hit a last-ball six in the finals of the Nidahas T20 Trophy in 2018 to clinch the title. Bangladesh had India on the mat with the Men in Blue needing 24 off the last two overs.
Our recent matches against Pakistan have lost precisely that – hunger. Beyond the fun and trolling of Pakistan cricketers after their tame surrender to India at this World Cup, it is evident that a principle reason behind the ire of frustrated Pakistan supporters is the lack of hunger and intent.
The defining characteristic of Bangladesh’s intense rivalry with India is perhaps their anger. Why are the Bangladeshi’s angry though?
Not an erratic outburst but a seething, consistent anger fuelled by feelings of injustice and disrespect.
We discussed at the outset how rivalries are driven less by statistics and more by emotions. Anger is, perhaps, the strongest of human emotions.
So, what happened? How did a friendly sibling rivalry turn intense ?
It was former ICC chief Jagmohan Dalmiya’s efforts, after all, that got Bangladesh their Test status in 2000. However, they played their first test match in India only in 2017 and therein lies an illustration of how the BCCI has treated their neighbours. Several opportunities to play in India have been turned down by India’s cricket board.
Add to this an unflinching feeling of having been shortchanged by ICC, umpires and referees all on India’s side. This was most evident during the no-ball controversy in the 2015 World Cup.
In conclusion,the rivalry with India definitely brings out the best in the Bangladeshis and one hopes, on Tuesday, it will bring out the best in India as well.
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