Power shift in Asian cricket - Rise of Bangladesh and a stumble for Pakistan?
There were days in ODI cricket history when the Bangladesh cricket team were considered as the 'underdogs', incapable of beating some of the stronger teams in the competition. Gone are those days as the once 'minnows of world cricket' have grown in stature and cricketing abilities.
They not only have proved this with their skills and temperament but have also shown the 'fire in the belly' and the positive attitude when compared to West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa and more so, Pakistan, in the past decade.
The much hyped 'India vs Pakistan' contest, which has been tagged as 'the mother of all cricketing battles' has gradually lost its sheen, aura, and charisma. This is because, over the past decade, the gulf between the two hostile neighbors- India and Pakistan has widened more than before.
India have dominated Pakistan over a decade as Pakistan once again lost to India in the much-anticipated World Cup 2019 clash in Manchester. With this win, India extended their unbeaten run and now lead 7-0 in World Cup encounters.
Pakistan have no dearth of talent in cricket but it seems their selectors and board have failed to tap them appropriately. Moreover, terrorism has ruined international cricketing activities since 2009 when the visiting Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by gunmen on March 3, 2009 which will remain as one of the darkest days in cricket.
The cricket frenzied crowd in Pakistan have been devoid of international cricket since with teams like Zimbabwe, West Indies and surprisingly Sri Lanka visiting only for a game or two. This forced the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to adopt UAE (Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi) as Pakistan's home venue.
The cricketing ties between India and Pakistan have been marred by national security, politics and defence diplomacy. Ultimately, cricket fans from both the sides over the years have yearned to see the two cricketing giants face-off in a bilateral series where they see Kohli and co. playing in Pakistan while Sarfaraz and co. playing in India in all formats of the game (Tests, ODIs and T20s).
On the other hand, Bangladesh have slowly and steadily marked their presence in world cricket defeating all the top eight ranked teams, particularly in ODI cricket. Who can forget Mohammad Ashraful’s century in Cardiff in 2005 which was instrumental in Bangladesh’s famous 5-wicket win against the then invincible Australia?
The Habibul Bashar-led Bangladesh handed India a shock five-wicket defeat in the group stage match of the 2007 World Cup. The Tigers, as they are popularly known, also defeated South Africa by 67 runs in that edition. Following that, they gradually started to dominate at home against West Indies, Zimbabwe and New Zealand. They defeated England in 2011 and 2015 World Cup editions.
Bangladesh have also challenged Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup. They have featured in previous three finals of the Asia Cup, but have unfortunately lost all of them. Playing at home, they agonizingly fell short by two runs against Pakistan in the 2012 final.
Bangladesh was dominated by MS Dhoni-led India in the final of the 2016 edition, which was played in the T20 format for the first time. India crushed Bangladesh by 8 wickets in the final. Again in 2018, India defeated Bangladesh by 3 wickets in the final to defend their title and stamp their Asian supremacy for the seventh time. Yet, it was Bangladesh's journey to the final that made heads nod.
Ahead of the World Cup 2019, Bangladesh won a tri-series featuring West Indies and Ireland where they defeated West Indies thrice, including in the summit clash of the finals. On the contrary, Pakistan were whitewashed 5-0 by Australia in a 5-match ODI series played in UAE and were also thrashed 4-0 by England when the two nations squared off ahead of the World Cup.
In the ongoing World Cup 2019, Bangladesh have defeated South Africa (by 21 runs) and West Indies (by 7 wickets registering their 2nd highest run-chase in World Cup history) in two high scoring encounters. They almost pulled off a win against New Zealand as well.
Players like Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahamudullah Riyad, skipper Mashrafe Mortaza, Soumya Sarkar and Liton Das have been proven match-winners for Bangladesh over the years.
It wouldn't be wrong to say that an ‘India vs Bangladesh’ match has become more contesting and thrilling over the years than an ‘India vs Pakistan’ match. However, in terms of revenue no one can match an Indo-Pak tie as cricket pundits call it 'a match made in heaven'.
With the rise of Afghanistan, who have showcased their talent by defeating Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh; South Asia’s cricketing future spearheaded by India is bright and here to stay.
Also read – World cup most wickets