Nidahas Trophy 2018: Bangladesh-Sri Lanka rivalry encouraging, but Tigers must learn to handle success better

  • Debdutta Bhattacharjee
  • March 20th, 2018
  • 18:43:03 IST


It's a word that aptly describes the way the Bangladeshi cricketers and fans have been conducting themselves. From the many run-ins with India to the latest episodes of acrimony with Sri Lanka in the Nidahas Trophy, exacerbated by the performance of the crass Naagin dance that reeked of a blatant effort to disregard and mock the opponents, the way Bangladesh have behaved on and off the field has left a lot to be desired. The reactions have been so over-the-top and exaggerated that they have become embarrassing.

Bangladesh's Nurul Hasan (2L) argues with Sri Lanka's Thisara Perera (R) during the 6th T20I of the Nidahas Trophy in Colombo. AFP

Bangladesh's Nurul Hasan (2L) argues with Sri Lanka's Thisara Perera (R) during the 6th T20I of the Nidahas Trophy in Colombo. AFP

Bangladesh, without a shadow of a doubt, have put in some memorable performances and registered some fantastic wins since acquiring Test status in 2000.

There has been that famous win over then world champions Australia in an ODI in 2005, they have beaten Pakistan, South Africa, India and England (twice) in World Cups. They have put it past India in a bilateral ODI series in 2015, have had Test wins against England and Australia, and have reached the final of the Asia Cup and indeed the just-concluded tri-nation tournament ahead of more illustrious opponents.

Yes, Bangladesh have plunged to the depths of despair and seemed totally out of place in the big league of world cricket from time to time. There have been occasions when you knew that if it was a Bangladesh fixture, there would be only one result possible – a Bangladesh defeat.

But they have improved and today are no more the pushovers they used to be. They can stun oppositions, and do it more frequently now. But all the good cricket often tends to get overshadowed by argy-bargy with the opposition. There has been a tendency to mock and disrespect the rivals every time that they taste the smallest of successes.

Doing the Naagin dance in someone's face is a distasteful, school-boyish way of celebration, totally unbecoming of a set of professional sportsmen who are supposed to be the ambassadors of their country. Perhaps Mushfiqur Rahim and Co need to take a leaf out of the book of the Iceland football team, who have united an entire nation not just by virtue of their giant-killing acts on the big stage, but also with their volcano clap celebration, and endeared themselves to the world.

Let's face it: Among all the bizarre celebrations that you see on a sporting field, the Naagin dance would surely be among the worst, majorly because unlike the others, it tries to poke fun at the opposition. Bangladesh's reactions would not fall under the category of structured, targeted sledging like what the Australians do, but they have been simply an unrestrained, out-of-control expression of emotion, obfuscating of the fine line between passion and jingoism. An when that happens, rivalries start to get ugly and personal.

It was utter disrespect of the opposition when, for example, a video made in Bangladesh claimed in 2015 that the visiting Indian team would be 'bambooed', or after a creditable ODI series win, a Bangladesh newspaper 'humiliated' the Indians, portraying some of their players with half of their heads shaved, or when a poster was made of one of Bangladesh's frontline bowlers carrying the 'severed' head of the then Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni as a war trophy, or indeed when the celebrated Indian fan Sudhir Gautam was attacked.

Success tends to bring out a wild reaction among the Bangladeshi players and fans alike. They are often neither humble in victory, nor gracious in defeat, failing, therefore, at the first hurdle of qualifying as a champion side.

One remembers when Indian opener Rohit Sharma was caught off Rubel Hossain in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final, but the delivery was deemed to be a no-ball and the dismissal was struck down. It had the whole of Bangladesh whining, and complaining of a dark conspiracy. Rohit, who was batting on 90 at that time, went on to score a sparkling 137 and fashioned India's victory. Bangladesh's Mustafa Kamal, who was the then International Cricket Council (ICC) president alleged that the result was pre-arranged and threatened to resign from his post. The country's prime minister Sheikh Hasina also condemned the umpiring decision. Now if that is not overreaction, what is?

And not only India, England have witnessed this negative side of Bangladesh cricket as well. The second ODI of the series during their tour of Bangladesh in 2016 saw some unsavoury scenes as Mahmudullah got involved in a tiff with Jos Buttler, after the latter was dismissed, and the umpires had to intervene to prevent anything more untoward from happening. “I was just disappointed in the way they celebrated, it’s an emotional game,” Buttler said.

Then Tamim Iqbal apparently dropped a shoulder into Jonny Bairstow during the customary handshakes, which made Ben Stokes and other England players jump to Bairstow's rescue, with Stokes pushing Iqbal aside. He later tweeted: "Congrats to Bangladesh on the win tonight,outplayed us,what I won't stand for is someone putting a shoulder to my teammate at handshakes."

Against Sri Lanka, in a must-win game of the Nidahas Trophy on Friday, Bangladesh's conduct was a complete disgrace. They pulled off a record chase in their previous match against the Lankans and Rahim, who was the chief architect of that historic win, having played a 35-ball unbeaten 72, had broken into the Naagin dance after the win.

In fact, the Naagin dance and Sri Lanka versus Bangladesh contests have a history to them. One remembers Nazmul Islam doing it while celebrating Upul Tharanga's wicket in one of the T20Is when the islanders toured Bangladesh earlier this year. It has now come to occupy a central place in what is fast turning out to be a ding dong rivalry. The Lankans have not shied away from giving it back, and when Rahim – one of the chief proponents of the Bangladeshi version of the Naagin dance – was dismissed on Friday, Sri Lankan spinner Amila Aponso offered the been (flute) to put Rahim's naagin (snake) to sleep.

Bangladesh may have scripted a fine win on Friday that gave them the ticket to the Nidahas Trophy final. But the occasion was marred by some manic celebrations, heated arguments between Bangladesh's reserve player Nurul Hasan, who had carried drinks on to the field, and Sri Lankan captain Thisara Perera. Bangladesh captain and one of the leading all-rounders in the world, Shakib Al Hasan, clearly gestured towards the batsmen, calling them back after an umpiring decision did not go their way in the final stage of the match. He later denied having asked the batsmen to withdraw.

"I wasn't calling them back. I was telling them to play. You can describe it both ways. It depends on how you see it," Shakib said. "We are all humans and making mistakes is in our nature," he added.

There was complete chaos after the match and Bangladesh batsman Tamim Iqbal was seen having to calm down a furious Kusal Mendis as the players from both teams continued to argue. The glass of the Bangladesh dressing room was also found shattered, apparently the handiwork of some of the visiting players who had gone berserk in their celebrations. The incident made Sri Lakan legend Sanath Jayasuriya to term it "third class behaviour" in a tweet, which he deleted later.

The bad blood that Friday's match created between the two sets of fans, led the Sri Lankan crowd to turn up in numbers and shout themselves hoarse in support of India in the final, while the Bangladeshis were hardly ever cheered. There were reportedly "Jeetega bhai Jeetega, India jeetega" chants from the stands and the anger against Bangladesh was palpable.

But the question is why Bangladesh go on the rampage after every little success. One of the reasons could be that success for them has been so scarce that when they do succeed, they lose control of themselves in the euphoria and don't quite know what to do. The result is the wild celebration that we see. It may also spring from a craving for recognition, and a desire to be treated at par with some of the more established teams of the subcontinent. The Naagin dance et al are just ways to drive home that point.

The Sri Lanka-Bangladesh rivalry augurs well for cricket in Asia, where you could soon have an alternative (albeit lower in stature) narrative to the India-Pakistan contests. It would be great news for the game in general too, and an emaciated Sri Lanka and a competitive Bangladesh of the present day make good rivals. However, handling success is an art that Bangladesh are yet to master. Here they can possibly take a lesson or two from the Lankans who had transited from being a lightweight in the 1980s and early 1990s to a major force since the 1996 World Cup. Sometimes smartness is in learning from your opponent!

Updated Date: March 20, 2018 18:43:03 IST

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