There was something different about Friday’s game. Something almost feral.
It first poked its head out when the Bangladeshi players were on the field: they were chirpy, vocal, charged up. You could have put it down to the frothy passion with which the entire country treats its cricket; after conceding the early momentum to India, some of that energy spilled over on each other; misdirected but not deflated.
But when India took the field after putting on 265, there was no mistaking it for what it was: needle.
India have not been guilty of a lack of intensity in this tournament, but here they were making it a point to communicate it, with more than just their actions. And often the language of instruction, was Bengali.
“Bhalo ache”, they kept repeating as Shivam Mavi and Ishan Porel tattooed the short of length area on the pitch. Even a dot ball that hit the middle of the bat was cheered as if it had cut the batter in half.
The inner ring walked in generously after every ball, making sure that what they said was heard. Mavi bowled 48 balls in the game, and you would be able to count the number of full balls on one hand, and a couple of them would have been toe-crushers. He and Porel gave next to no width to the two left-handed openers, so they had them pinned to the back foot, with Mavi hurrying them for pace as well. It was a plan that India had not used before.
Until now the bowlers had looked to pitch the ball up and get it to swing; here the policy seemed to be no-length-no-runs (and almost no-mercy). It was clear that this was not just another quarterfinal that India wanted to win. This was a little bit of a grudge match.
A grudge match
“At the Asia Cup in November, we lost to Bangladesh. That time, they said many things to us. That was on our mind,” revealed Shubman Gill after the game. That game, played on the 14th November in Kuala Lumpur, had India under severe pressure even before a ball was bowled.
India were the defending champions, but had suffered a shock loss to Nepal in the previous game. That’s right, Nepal, who didn’t even qualify for the World Cup.
Bangladesh took full advantage of the pressure, playing perhaps their best match of the tournament. They bowled India out for 187 and then Pinak Ghosh and Towhid Hridoy scored 81 and 48, both unbeaten, to see Bangladesh home by eight wickets.
It was Bangladesh’s only second ever win against India Under-19, and sent the title holders out of the tournament.
“In that Asia Cup game, we had momentum on our side”, said Saif Hassan, the Bangladeshi captain. “So we were sledging them a bit, like what they did to us today. It’s all part of the game.”
The fact that India have eight players in this tournament who didn’t play the Asia Cup does nothing to dent the sheen of that upset win. So India had a score to settle as well as a semifinal to get into. And in a slightly puerile manner, they rubbed it in. ‘Yeh Malaysia nahi hai’ (This isn’t Malaysia any more).
On field intensity, that’s what Shaw called after the match. Whatever it was, it went a notch higher once Kamlesh Nagarkoti came into the attack.
A number of questions were raised on social media about the speed guns used in India’s group games in Tauranga. There were some who scoffed when Nagarkoti clocked a high of 146.8 kph. But in Queenstown, even on a slow wicket with a different speed gun, Nagarkoti clocked a high of 143 kph, and India made sure the Bangladeshi batters knew it.
“Beautiful shadow tha”, cried someone when the batter was beaten for pace. “Too quick for him”. “Never played 145 before, it’s ok it happens.”
Despite Bangladesh’s spinners enjoying some good periods in the match, India were the better team in their 131 run victory. They knew it and they made sure Bangladesh knew it as well.
It was a typically teenage display from a bunch of teenage cricketers, the only saving grace being that there was no direct abuse or theatrical send offs. While there was little harm done, even had they beaten them just as comprehensively without any of the words, a message would have been sent.
Still, it was impressive to see players show aggression without crossing the line. The picture in mind was not quite school-ground bully, but more like the class know-it-all.
Indian supporters would be happy to see a team that heap mental-disintegration on others after years of being on the receiving end. But one can’t help the feeling that - no disrespect to Bangladesh - perhaps India could have picked on someone their own size.
The author is a former India cricketer, and now a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She hosts the YouTube Channel, ‘Cricket With Snehal’, and tweets @SnehalPradhan
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