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Elephant in the room (2014)
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Sri Lanka has taken a giant lead of 498 runs. As the author endured and enjoyed the third day's experience of first Test at Mirpur, he comes to point out how at the critical stage of an ICC draft proposal, Bangladesh team cannot ignore the obvious deficiencies that is apparent within the team.

Elephant in the room

Published: 29th January, 2014

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Mahalo! It’s Jayawardene

When a team humiliates you by taking a lead of 498 runs in first innings, there is little one can do than sit back and applaud. And that is precisely what we did at every milestone on the way- Sri Lanka’s way, that is. At Mahela’s 100, 150, Sri Lanka reaching 700, and finally after the ebullient six by Mahela Jayawardene to reach his double-century, the crowd needed something to cheer. Since it wasn’t Bangladesh, we had to go for Sri Lanka, as if to taunt ourselves in a good ol' self-deprecating humor bordering sarcasm.

Finally, after we were off the hook when the team’s hero galloped away hitting a six that disappeared over mid-wicket region, I calmly muttered to myself: Mahalo! It’s Jayawardene.

Natural ‘spa’ and living the millionaire dream

I received two VIP tickets and pinged my cousins and some BC members if they would want to tag along. But all denied. Respectfully, I must say.

So it was pretty boring of a first session in the relatively vacant VIP stand. There was not much happening on-field where bowlers were not testing the batsmen by neither creating chances, nor applying pressure, and it was pretty uneventful opening session.

But one step at a time, Sri Lanka marched ahead slowly building a colossal lead that was to be 730. But before that happened I rushed for the favorite part of my innings: Lunch!

Sadly, they did not deliver food in the VIP stand today, and I asked the incompetent guards if I go out of the stand (*not to confuse with ‘out of the stadium’), will I be able to get back in? They flatly denied, but I told them bluntly "Tayle ki amra sharadin na khaya thakbo?"  which colloquially and roughly translates to: We will starve, mate?

At this, they informed us that we can sneak in to the adjacent stand where food was being served. I hurried. I did not want to miss out, nor wanted to starve for the day.  I purchased a chicken burger for 80 Taka and a cold coffee for 40 and fully refreshed, I was about to take on the whole stadium.

The adjacent stand was not VIP but had roofing above and was alive with noise and audience. I climbed the stairs and went right at the back and laid down sideways on four or five seats.

The sun poured in through a crack, the breeze swayed me afresh, and with the Mirpur traffic overlooking from the back of the gallery, I slowly took in the whole scenario of the picturesque stadium with each breath. Is this what a million dollar lifestyle worth? Of course, I only had about Tk 800 left, but with no job, or no school work, I was completely at peace to watch a live cricket match, Bangladeshi one, on green turf. The field was dotted with white shirts and trousers and I had to focus really hard to see the ball. But, it was the most serene atmosphere I could imagine. All the dystopian ruins of first and second days' innings was completely countered by my freedom to watch the test match the way I wanted without resorting to a journalistic rigor of note taking or analysis. I just soaked in the nature’s ‘spa’.

Gazi’s breakthrough

The entire day saw one wicket fall for Sri Lanka and after a few false starts, I finally awoke from my reverie at the din that burst through the stadium. The empty seats were banged like drums, foots stomped, crowds chanted “Gazi! Gazi!” and “Bangladesh!” rhythmically.

I did not see the wicket fall live per se, after all, it’s only a second that the action lasts when watching it live, amidsts a parsec of a Sri Lankan innings. So it was like a dot in a vast empty canvas.

It was as neglible of a matter as one can say. Right after Matthews scored a well-paced 86 runs, including a six, and then getting out caught to Marshall Ayub off Sohag Gazi. Then the real drama unfolded.

Lions share of runs

Kithuruwan Vithanage latched on to an onslaught backed by Mahela’s level headed shots. The team knew they had nothing to lose for, as the lead was slowly building up to 300, 400 and finally to 498. Kithuruwan, whom I confess I never knew off, made sure that his name will forever be grinded down in our brains. The debutant appeared in the distinctive Galle test last year, which the Tigers drew.

The first innings would see the lions’s share with the duo amassing 176 runs for seventh wicket, the second highest undefeated partnership so far.

Kithuruwan hardly took any risk and dispatched the bad balls with disdain with Mahela doing the damage at the other end superbly picking up the gap.

Kith would make 104 ball 103 and the run-a-ball rate would raise the run rate to 3.88 an over.

The trap that wasn’t seen

After Mahela left the field seeing the ball off to the orbit, we needed a moment or two to fully gather what had happened. Is this a 200? Is this a six? Is this the finally end of their innings? Of course, we were too busy with our sarcastic clappings and cheer with some ‘bhuas’ interjected in between, but we gave away real cries of delight when we saw that Mushfiqur hurried to shake Mahela’s hand as the man was exiting the field.

Mercy at last.

Tamim started in his usual bravado fashion, with an empty field strategically set for him with a gully and slips forming a five-men cordon and short leg.

It appeared to us Tamim almost edged the first ball for a duck. However, after hitting some boundaries, I knew that he was slowly being lured to a trap. They left a vacant gap on the on side, his favorite hitting area, and all he needed to do was play a few too many shots.

I left the stadium with four overs to spare, and as soon as I left the scene I heard a few talk to each other with earphones plugged in for the radio about Tamim Iqbal's departure.

After my ride appeared, I got in and started the radio to confirm. And it was indeed the case. Tamim apparently 'danced down the track' and was caught off the spinner Herath’s bowling to Perera.

Elephant in the room

As much as I hated the first day of Test 1, I loved every moment of this day’s progress. The relative uncertainty of whether we are all ‘doomed’ or if we can avoid an innings defeat is something to look forward to. As we say in the forum: “Khela besh jome utheche”.

But I reckon it’s just matter of hours, if not minutes, that the Tigers finally give away to pressure being tempted to play their shots. Sri Lanka finally cracked the code, after studying their prey and they know it better that it suffices to bat only once in a match for them to stamp their authority.

However, it is about time that we address the thousand pound beast in the room. The mammoth total of the first innings should give away few clues and hints as to where our Test team is progressing. It is not the first time we have found ourselves in this familiar scenario. In the current controversy of ICC drafts, the young Bangladeshi team would need to give the fight of their life to draw the match, so as to prove with a resounding 'yes' that the team having tested under all situations can fight back to prove worthy of the Test status to which they are entitled.

If that's the elephant in the room, then a miracle, not magic, is needed to make it go away.

 

About the author(s): Having graced the forum behind the dramatis personae of Gopal Bhar, Zeeshan now chiefly lurks here for nearby free iftar locations ie when not contemplating about Gödel, Escher and Bach or other meta-mathematical themes. He is also the author of "Collected Writings on Cricket".

 

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