The tiger's roar fades in the Sahara
The South Africans were dumbfounded. After all, they were playing against a team that were the punching bags of the top nations, the smallest guy in the classroom, the one with his hair drenched in coconut oil and partitioned in the middle – the freaking minnows.
There was a time when the bullies actually went to his yard in front of his home and beat the joy out of him – and he just soaked it in helplessly. Sometimes, he would put up a fight, but it wasn’t enough in most cases.
However, things changed. And they changed more suddenly than a coast-guard life-saver being called into action.
Soumya Sarkar’s bat was like the vajra of Indra, wreaking havoc against the bowlers of South Africa. And then there was this left-handed pacer whose slower one was impossible to decipher. Of course, I am talking about Mustafizur Rahman.
The Proteas were the third team that Bangladesh had won an ODI series against in 2015. Pakistan and India were the other two. The smallest kid in the class is coming of age – in his yard, he is now hard to beat.
However, that’s what it was – in his home, in his yard. Being small meant that he had to also rely on the surrounding to assist him with fighting off his tormentors. And Bangladesh were heavily reliant on the conditions being in their favour.
The tigers of home, the cats of stranger yards
Despite winning three ODI series on the trot, there was always a question of how they would fare away from home. How would the little take on the big guns on their yard?
And we have gotten the answer: not so good, apparently.
At first, they were whitewashed in New Zealand as the Tigers lost all their games on the trot. New Zealand themselves were made to face extreme embarrassment when they visited Bangladesh in 2010 and were handed a ‘Banglawash’ in the ODI series.
Revenge is a dish best served cold – and the Kiwis did just that last year. The Bangladesh cricketers looked completely helpless in the colder conditions of New Zealand and gave the impression that the mouse becomes the lion in its own hole.
Another venture outside home beckoned, but this time it was a little different.
This time, they had lost to Australia at home – the shades of the forgotten boy were beginning to reappear – beforing venturing to Africa to take on the mighty South Africans.
No matter how cool the boy looks now, the smell of the coconut oil still lingers around his hair – and South Africa completely grabbed them by it and tossed them around the Sahara desert.
The Sahara is located at the northern part of Africa, so South Africa are technically not a part of it. However, one can’t just help and let go of such a chance to come up with a catchy analogy. The Tigers might be predators, but in the desert it is the camels that survive.
The same Soumya Sarkar that went berserk against the Proteas in Bangladesh couldn’t even muster a meow in the African continent. Meanwhile, Mustafizur Rahman was battered around in the Test games before sparing himself from more pain by getting injured prior to the first ODI and subsequently missing the ODI series completely.
Which, obviously, was a great thing for Mustafizur as he also wouldn’t have been spared by the raging Amlas and tormenting De Villiers.
So, where to now? What are the Bangladesh team supposed to do? Curl up in the corner and cry till their eyes dry out? Maybe.
What they shouldn’t do is stop playing abroad and away from home, especially outside the continent. It feels wonderful to win games, but winning them away from home is something entirely different – as they have already been taught.
As the age old saying goes, you can win all the games at home, but it doesn’t mean jack if you don’t apply yourself in uncomfortable conditions. The ability to adapt was what made the Aussies the best cricket team in the world during Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh’s era.
We are yet to see a team like that – and we probably never might – but the truth is that for any team to grow and compete heads-on with the top-tier teams of cricket, playing away from home is an absolute must.
Bangladesh didn’t just lose against South Africa, they were decimated. The memories of being bullied by the big boys were not only reminded, but replayed. Bangladesh might have come in like a kid with cool glasses and a hair full of wax, but they will return home with their heads shaved and egos bruised.
Bangladesh should continue touring
But that shouldn’t stop them from touring more, from exploring further. They could be afraid — who wouldn’t after failing to win a single game away from the subcontinent since God-knows-when? – they could be unwilling. Heck, they could go on to lose another 100 games away from home.
However, they should still continue touring and finding out their flaws. It is only in this way that they could improve. Both the batting and the bowling have been found out in this away tour, but they could go home and analyse the mistakes and the areas of improvement.
See, this is what playing away from home does. All these days, most of us thought that Bangladesh were actually a force to be reckoned with, but after the bashing they were handed by the Proteas, we now know how far they are from the top echelons of cricket.
And the only way to reach the top is to keep moving forward – and the only way forward is outside the subcontinent.
The roar might have faded in the Sahara, but at some point, in some other lands – or maybe in the same Sahara – far away from home, they could find that roar back again.
Explore. Just explore.