Bangladesh march to victory over Afghanistan in battle of cricket’s youngest members

Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim celebrate taking the wicket of Afghanistan’s Najibullah Zadran in the ICC Cricket World Cup match at The Ageas Bowl, Southampton, Britain, on June 24, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 25 June 2019

Bangladesh march to victory over Afghanistan in battle of cricket’s youngest members

  • Bangladesh beat Afghanistan by 62 runs in Cricket World Cup match to register their third win in the tournament on Monday
  • Bangladesh posted 262 for seven wickets after wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim top-scored with 83

KARACHI: On Monday, two of the youngest teams in cricket met in Southampton in a World Cup game, with Afghanistan playing for pride, while Bangladesh were looking to continue what has been a quietly fantastic campaign.
Coming in with big wins against West Indies and South Africa, and strong showings in defeats to New Zealand and Australia, Bangladesh were confident they could continue their march to the semifinals, but the Afghans, who are already eliminated, weren’t going to be pushovers.
In a press conference at the eve of the game, Afghan captain Gulbadin Naib was told that the Bangladeshi coach Steve Rhodes felt his team were ready to take Afghanistan on. Without missing a beat, Naib switched from Pashto to Urdu and said “Hum to dube hai sanam; tujhe bhi leke dubenge. (We are drowning, darling, but we will take you with us.)”
Indeed, the shared languages, culture and heritage among the South Asian teams are one reason cricket’s fraternity can be seen as a family.
All its major members are related through the experience of colonization, and the politics of those relations reverberate in all encounters and narratives of the sport. Like most South Asian daughters-in-law, Bangladesh had to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get accepted by the larger family. After receiving Test match status in 1999, they had to go through a long time where their side was derided and/or patronized for not being strong enough to match the others. Statisticians would exclude matches played against them from records, while players were mocked if their best efforts came against Bangladesh. Perhaps most agonizingly, time and again over these past two decades, they would be on the verge of huge, life-changing upsets, only to lose at the last moment.
Those near misses had created a fandom, in a country absolutely mad for cricket, that was viewed as a bit melodramatic and churlish. People who held such views didn’t have to go through the growing pains for their own teams’ journeys and thus could afford to be uncharitable. But Bangladesh kept on keeping on, and since the last World Cup in 2015 have truly transformed as a limited overs side, winning matches against all-comers at home and improving in leaps and bounds in away encounters.
In contrast, Afghanistan’s cricket team had a much more welcoming arrival. The wretched, horrifying history of war in their homeland had made refugees of vast numbers of Afghans, mostly in Pakistan where they picked up their cricket. That connection with Pakistan meant access to first-class matches for the team, provision of international level coaches and facilities, as well as regular chances to compete against good players. In addition, the arrival of T20 franchise leagues meant that their players had become stars in the international stage before their team had achieved much, something Bangladesh never had in their formative years. Once Afghanistan had received international status, they had pulled off bigger results than most sides coming into the sport.
In that context, Naib’s promise to drown the beloved with themselves wasn’t just a false threat — Afghanistan had the potential to take down their South Asian rivals. But here was the thing — Bangladesh had paid the price of being here in blood. They’d gone through the false dawns, the near misses, the agonies and tribulations that come with being a newbie. And forged through those fires, they had emerged with the Prince Who Was Promised — Shakib al Hasan.
Bangladesh cricket’s first superstar, Shakib had long been one of the world’s best all-rounders, and could hold his own both in international cricket as well as in franchise T20 leagues around the world. Known mostly for his bowling, his batting always showed far more promise than actual results. But then, in the buildup to this tournament he insisted that he bat up the order, and since then he is having one of the best World Cups any player has ever had.
Against Afghanistan, he turned in a truly record-breaking performance. After scoring his third fifty to go top of the tournament’s batting charts, he took five wickets to crush Afghanistan’s spirited reply, forcing himself into the top 10 list for the bowlers as well. His presence was a reminder to Afghanistan that despite doing much better than Bangladesh had at this stage of their development, they don’t have a player like Shakib that elevates your team to another level. To be fair, even Bangladesh never had this version of Shakib before. He’s had three centuries in this tournament, and is having an outsized impact on his team’s progress.
His captain, Mashrafe Mortaza acknowledged as much saying that “Shakib’s been fantastic. He’s scoring runs and whenever we need he’s getting us wickets. I think that partnership [Shakib had with Mushfiqur Rehman] wasn’t very big but [it] was important.”
Shakib himself noted: “I did work really hard before the WC [so] I was well prepared. The best I could ever be prepared. It’s paying off. Definitely want it to carry on. Our next two games against India and Pakistan are big games.” Indeed victories in these two matches would take Bangladesh to their best ever finish in a World Cup with a semifinal spot.
As for Afghanistan, their journey seems set to evolve after this tournament. Their cricket board has made a host of controversial moves which are meant to take the team to the next level, and which have left a lot of the old guard that led the team’s initial years out in the cold. The search is very much still on for how to move forward, but this World Cup might not provide any answers. As Naib said at the end of the match, “I think we missed something this tournament … We’re missing something.”
That something might well be a superstar like Shakib.


Pakistani jailed for Dutch anti-Islam MP murder plot

Updated 18 November 2019

Pakistani jailed for Dutch anti-Islam MP murder plot

  • A Dutch court found the 27-year-old guilty of ‘planning a murder with a terrorist motive’
  • The judge added four years in jail to the six years sought by the prosecution

THE HAGUE: A Dutch court sentenced a Pakistani man to 10 years behind bars Monday for planning to assassinate a politician Geert Wilders after the MP announced an anti-Islam cartoon competition.
The man, identified as Junaid I. by local media, was arrested in August 2018 at a train station in The Hague after he posted a film on Facebook in which he said he wanted to “send Wilders to hell” and urged others to help.
Judges at The Hague’s district court found the 27-year-old man, who had traveled from France, guilty of “planning a murder with a terrorist motive” and “incitement to commit a terrorist deed.”
“The suspect more than once said that Wilders’ death would be a good deed,” said presiding judge Jan van Steen, who added four years in jail to the six years sought by the prosecution.
“Furthermore, the suspect wanted to commit the murder in one of the parliamentary buildings, the heart of Dutch democracy,” Van Steen said, adding “the court is alarmed that the suspect... declared that this case will boost his image in Pakistan.”
The suspect had denied any terror-related motives.
He said during the trial that he was “peace-loving” and had only traveled to the Netherlands from France to protest against Wilders’ cartoon competition.
The Facebook video was seen by more than 153,000 people and shared 14,000 times.
Far-right leader Wilders canceled his plans two days later to stage a cartoon competition against the Prophet of Islam, a move that angered many Muslims, particularly in Pakistan where protests were led by the hard-line Islamist Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party.
Wilders, 56, known for his peroxide bouffant hairdo and firebrand anti-immigration and anti-Islamist statements, lives in a safe house and has been granted 24-hour protection by the Dutch state.
The court did not say how Junaid I. planned to kill Wilders but found that in a bugged phone call after his arrest he said he took “specific things with him... without which his mission would not be complete.”
He had also walked round with a “large backpack, which he did not have when he was arrested” and lied about what it contained, the judges said.
A day after Wilders announced the cancelation, an Afghan man stabbed two American tourists at Amsterdam’s main train station. The man, who said he wanted to “protect the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH),” was last month sentenced to 26 years in jail.