Amidst the excitement of the ICC World Cup 2019, one more thing is there to cherish for everyone on June 10. It was the day when Bangladesh registered a nail-biting win over India in the Asia Cup final, last year.
Yes, I am talking about the Bangladesh Women’s Team.
They not only beat India, the most successful team in the history of Asia Cup once but twice alongside another strong team, Pakistan.
But, the victory wasn’t easy at all!
Bangladesh came to the Asia Cup after a series loss in South Africa and they lost against Sri Lanka very cheaply in their first game of Asia Cup on June 3.
They showed a different approach in their second game on the very next day against Pakistan. At first, they bundled Pakistan within 95 and then reached the target with 2.1 overs to spare.
Slowly they were showing their presence and a win against India, the then-defending champion, who never lost a single game in the history of Asia Cup, was a big deal. It was not that India had a below-par on their plate; it was Bangladesh who started believing that they can also win against the strong team like India.
Their next two encounters were comparatively easy as they faced Thailand and Malaysia and won convincingly which helped them to reach the final and once again it was India whom they had to face.
Somehow, India had the upper hand as they were full of experienced players and match winners like Harmanpreet Kaur, Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana, Jhulan Goswami, Poonam Yadav etc. whereas Bangladesh was the underdog of the tournament.
India failed to score big in the final where the captain Harmanpreet Kaur was the only batter who scored 56 in their total of 112. Bowlers, especially Poonam Yadav tried her best to restrict the opponent. Her career-best 4 for 9 was the only reason the game went to the final ball.
The penultimate ball was seen the dismissal of Rumana Ahmed while the final ball was seen a dive of glory from Jahanara Alam which gave the whole nation a big achievement to celebrate.
In Jahanara Alam’s words from a recent chat with CaughtAtPoint, “It’s a big achievement for Bangladesh Cricket. Prior to the final game, Salma (Khatun) aapu told me to hit the ball anyhow and I told her to run for 2. After hitting the ball, I saw her middle of the crease and my target was to dive if in case I fell short. It wouldn’t have been possible without the firm planning of our head coach Anju (Jain) ma’am and assistant coach Devieka (Palshikaar) Di, our hard work and obviously a bit of luck.”
Asia Cup was the beginning of their journey. After that, they registered another win over Ireland where Jahanara Alam became the first player to take a 5-wicket haul in Twenty20 Internationals.
“I forgot there’s no record of a 5-wicket haul in T20s. After taking 3 wickets, I was hoping for another one. I got lucky that I got 5. I am grateful to God, my coaches, my teammates for this achievement. My hard work paid off,” expressed Alam.
On the other hand, Nigar Sultana Joty said, “It’s not that we weren’t playing good cricket earlier, it’s the Asia Cup which brought us into the limelight. Asia Cup and that changed us totally. Now we believe that we can.”
Bangladesh won the World T20 Qualifiers as well where Fahima Khatun claimed the first hat-trick for Bangladesh and Panna Ghosh bagged 5 wickets in the final of the tournament.
After that, they lost to Pakistan in the T20I series in October but bounced back brilliantly in the one-off ODI where Khadija Tul Kubra’s six-for made the winning foundation for their win over Pakistan.
But T20 World Cup in last November was seen a dismal show once again from them.
“Maybe the pressure and expectation were the reasons behind their bad show in the World Cup. Because earlier they were only a participant and now pressure of doing well and pressure of result could be the reason of their failure,” said Devieka Palshikaar, the assistant coach of the team.
But the players think about something else!
“We collapsed in batting in the World Cup. We didn’t get the start which we got in the Asia Cup,” said Jahanara Alam.
Even Joty’s thought was no different. “We were no doubt in a great form from the Asia Cup but we got a break before the World Cup last year. That somehow caused our poor performance there. Though the bowlers and fielders played well, batters failed to perform. If we, the batters could take more responsibilities, the result would have been different I guess.”
Moreover, who can forget Jahanara Alam’s stunning one-handed catch in the game against West Indies?
“It was cutter for a dot ball. I was running with a rhythm and realised everyone was silenced that means it’s a keeper’s catch. But suddenly I saw our keeper (Shamima Sultana) was standing with her hands folded. I was stunned seeing this; somehow I reached the point where the ball was at my left side. I stretched my left hand and it just fell in my palm. I was astonished as well,” happily shared Jahanara.
They recently played Dhaka Premier League, where some of the players did really well with both bat and ball. After the mega event, they analysed their performances and worked on them which helped them to do well in the Premier League also. Moreover, they played National League at Cox’s Bazar and a T20 league in Rangpur before the tournament.
Premier League showed a great prospect in Bangladesh Cricket where a couple of teams scored more than 300 runs a couple of time. In Joty’s words, “we are able to put up 300 runs as well as capable to chase them.”
However, Rumana Ahmed thinks they are still in the “same page”.
Bangladesh doesn’t belong to the Top 8 teams in the ICC ranking which means they don’t get regular matches. They get to play only connecting through other cricket board which certainly hampers their growth.
While speaking about it, a few of them, be it Joty, Rumana or Jahanara, everyone suggested that they need more International matches to grow and to understand their potential. As of now, they are playing with each other and that certainly isn’t helping them.
“Though I am doing hard work, it wouldn’t of any use if we don’t get to play with other countries. I know my teammates’ strength and weakness so it wouldn’t be tough to play against them but I am failing to perform in the international stage,” said Rumana.
“Our coaches understand us pretty well. To keep our performance growing, we need to play more or need to have camps. It is not easy to get back in form within a couple of days. It takes time. For bowling, it’s easy rather than batting improvement. I would like to request BCB to give us some more time with the coaches so that we could do well in batting as well,” she further added.
In their recent Premier League, Fahima Khatun became the Best Bowler. She believes daily practice and her coach Devieka Palshikaar’s advice helped her to do well.
“I haven’t skipped a single day of practice. Also, I have practised spot bowling every day. From there I have achieved more confidence and done better. As a result, there were more variations and consistency in my bowling. Devieka ma’am is very skilled and helpful. She helped me in practice time and gives me some batting tips also,” added Fahima.
Bangladesh’s success depends a lot on their two coaches, the former India players Anju Jain and Devieka Palshikaar. Alongside the hard work of the players, it was the coaches’ game plan and strategy which helped them to win three series in a row.
“It’s all about game plan and motivation along with execution in the series. They are extraordinary. If we get their guidance for some more years I am saying you today, our team will go far from here,” said Jahanara Alam.
This is not all.
Jahanara Alam, who gave credit to her coach Devieka Palshikaar for her improved and consistent bowling, got the chance to play in the recently concluded Women’s T20 Tournament in Jaipur.
“Show your presence,” said Devieka Palshikaar to Jahanara Alam before the final where she literally proved her ability by dismissing Nat Sciver and Sophie Devine.
“I did expect to play in the first game of the IPL but that didn’t happen. I am a natural outswinger bowler and the reverse swing happens when the ball becomes old. I didn’t expect to get the reverse so early in the IPL. When I finally get to understand, I started using that well and as a result, I got 2 wickets,” said she.
This was “a great experience indeed” which she believes will help her in future. She’s “lucky, thankful and happy” that she got the chance to represent her country there. Though the result didn’t go their way, it will certainly open many doors for her.
“She is happy and she performed well in the last game. Hopefully, she will get more and more opportunity in future,” believes her coach Devieka Palshikaar.
Her believe became true as Jahanara Alam is going to represent Bangladesh in the Women’s Global Development Squad (WGDS) along with Fargana Hoque Pinky. The initiative which was taken by ICC and ECB is in its second year now.
“I received a call some times ago and got to know that I am not going to South Africa and going to play in the Kia Super League. Probably I will get some practice matches there as well as experience also,” Jahanara expressed happily.
They will play against South Africa in July. CaughtAtPoint wishes team Bangladesh lots of success for the future.