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ZAFAR SOBHAN
DATELINE DHAKA

Zafar Sobhan is editor of the Dhaka Tribune, a daily newspaper.

Bangla cricket is witnessing its golden generation

hat a difference a year makes. This time last year the Bangladesh cricket team was reeling from back to back failures in the Asia Cup and the T20 World Cup, punctuated by losses to Hong Kong and Afghanistan. This was followed by two dismal series performances against India and the West Indies. But if the recently concluded Cricket World Cup was the coming out party for the Bangladesh cricket team, the current series against Pakistan is where we have consolidated our gains and shown the world that we are capable of repeat performance and sustained excellence. Bangladesh has never wanted for cricketing talent in the past.

The problem has always been consistency and character. We have always had players who could turn in isolated performances of astonishing quality. What we lacked was the individual character to turn in those performances match in and match out, and especially when the chips were down. And what we lacked individually, we lacked even more as a team, with embarrassing collapses commonplace and the ability to recover from early setbacks conspicuously absent from our game. The current crop of Bangladesh players, however, are on a different level altogether. Not only do we now have players of undeniable world class standard, but they can also perform at this standard routinely, not only in flashes.

Even more important, for the first time in living memory, the Bangladesh team has a resilience to it that allows it to weather bad luck or bad performances, and recover from a poor position to come back to win matches that looked like they were lost. We are no longer reliant on any one or two or three people. Our batting now goes all the way down to seven, which means that we can win without firing on all cylinders. In the World Cup it was Riyad who stepped up when the openers faltered. In this series it was the openers, first Tamim and then Soumya, who proved the match-winners. Our captain courageous, Mushfiq, is not only a superb wicket-keeper, but he has been solid as a rock at number 4. What a luxury it is to have our finest player being able to come in at number 5 and to know that we have two capable batsmen behind him, should the need for them arise. There can be little doubt that, both individually and as a team, this is our Golden Generation of Bangladesh cricket (hat-tip to Shammi Huda for the coinage), a generation of players who have come together to form a team that can stand toe to toe with the best in the world and has no cause to fear anyone else. And this, more than anything else, is the difference. The fear is gone. The self-doubt has been banished. What this team has that the others before it did not is belief in itself and each other and unshakeable self-confidence. The body language of the Bangladesh team when they are out on the field today is worth a thousand words.

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Bangladesh team has a resilience to it that allows it to weather bad luck or bad performances, and recover from a poor position.

They have a swagger to their game, they stand tall, they don't back down, they play with style and verve but also with lip and attitude. That is what makes them great. There is a long way to go and we are by no means the world's best, but now no one can doubt that we belong with the best and can take our seat at the table with pride. These young men represent the very best of Bangladesh, and in these troubled times, they are the one force keeping this country united, and through them, at least, we have achieved a measure of our Shonar Bangla. They truly are a golden generation, the one bright spot on the horizon, the one thing that brings a smile to the faces of everyday Bangladeshis as they scan the newspaper each morning looking for cheering news.

Tamim. Soumya. Riyad. Mushfiq. Shakib. Sabbir. Nasir. Mashrafe. Sunny. Rubel. Taskin. That is a roll call of honour and enough to strike fear into the heart of any team. Any one of them can be a match-winner. If the openers don't get you, the middle order runs deep. If the seamers don't nail you, the spinners will. And we have another dozen just like them, waiting in the wings. More than anything, what this Golden Generation has done is to give us, at long last, the cricketing foundation we need, on which we can build and expand.

The story of Bangladeshi cricket has long been: one step up, two steps back. But not anymore. We have finally reached a threshold from which there is no going back.

Watch out, world. The Tigers have arrived. And they're hungry.

Zafar Sobhan is the Editor, Dhaka Tribune

 
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