“The struggle this time is for emancipation! The struggle this time is for independence!
Be ready. We cannot afford to lose our momentum. Keep the movement and the struggle alive because if we fall back they will come down hard upon us.
Be disciplined. No nation’s movement can be victorious without discipline”.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Dhaka on March 7, 1971.
On March 17, 2017, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a temporary camp of the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) police force at Askhona Hajj camp area of Dhaka. Such a horrifying incident took place a day after two militants of JMB group blew themselves up to evade arrest by the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit during a raid in Chittagong’s Shitakunda.
These depressing events were taking place when Bangladesh cricket was celebrating a landmark in Colombo where they were playing their 100th Test match. Moreover, it was a match where Bangladesh needed to prove a point after the dismal show in the first Test at Galle.
The task was never going to be easy as the Sri Lankans are a tough nut to crack in their own den, and against Bangladesh, they boast an impressive record in five-day matches.
While the security team in Bangladesh was busy neutralising the terrorist threats on Friday noon, Shakib Al Hasan and debutant Mosaddek Hossain stood up boldly to face the might of Sri Lankan bowling attack.
Day 2, March 16, 2017
An exhibition of sheer recklessness spoiled a brilliant start to Bangladesh’s first innings. In reply to Sri Lanka’s first innings total of 338, Bangladesh were left reeling at 198 for 5 at stumps.
At one point, the visitors were 95 for 0, but as usual, an ugly collapse cropped up to sow the seeds of frustration and one man received a lot of harsh criticism for his wayward batting display.
Shakib Al Hasan was criticised for his eight-ball 18 not out on day 2 and did not earn him any praise. A lot depended on the ‘arrogant boy’ on day 3, March 17, to change the course of the game in favour of Bangladesh.
Day 3 March 17, 2017
It was the 98th birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The hospitals of Bangladesh celebrated the day by opening the outdoor medical services to provide health services to the patients despite a government holiday. Blood donation camps were set-up and the masjids, temples, pagoda and churches offered special prayers for the departed soul of Bangabandhu.
Meanwhile, at Colombo’s P Sara Oval, Shakib and young Mosaddek decided to pay tribute to Bangladesh’s greatest leader by scripting a partnership of 131 for the sixth-wicket. They decided to remain disciplined – an advice which Bangabandhu gave during his legendary speech on March 7, 1971, at Dhaka.
Shakib was a different batsman altogether on day 3. He curbed his aggressive intent to a great extent and concentrated more on keeping the ball on the ground. He often got back and played the ball as late as possible against Rangana Herath and Sandakan, while at the other end, young Mosaddek did not show any signs of nerves in his first ever Test.
Mosaddek’s footwork and defence impressed many in the commentary box and what made his batting even more special was his composure against the wily and experienced Herath.
Bangladesh took a lead of 129 in the first innings courtesy of Shakib’s hundred and Mosaddek’s steadiness. Sri Lanka’s response with the bat in the second innings was aggressive.
Day 4, March 18, 2017
The newspapers and social media focused heavily on the suicide bomb attack at Askhona. The people of Bangladesh were gripped by fear and the tragedy of the Gulshan attack of last year, loomed large in the minds of Bangladeshis.
The security of Dhaka was tightened. There were police checkpoints in almost every street of the capital city. The local television channels highlighted the Askhona attack while the expert opinions of the security and political establishment kept the people in the loop about the situation.
They needed some cheer to lift up their mood.
In Sri Lanka, the players took the field after lunch at P Sara Oval. The Lankans were in a very strong position and something special was needed from the visitors to turn the tables around.
Mushfiqur Rahim decided to use the Mustafizur Rahman and Shakib pair in tandem to fetch quick wickets and a dull afternoon burst into life as the Fizz-Shakib pair set jitters in the Sri Lankan batting line up.
Shakib’s bowling was at his best - he flighted the ball well and made it zip from the surface which hardly had anything for the spinners. He created doubts in the minds of the batters with his astonishing control.
At the other end, Mustafizur went around the wicket, pitched the ball full from an acute angle and then moved it away to baffle the Lankan batters.
Day 5, March 19, 2017
Near the Walton showroom, which sold electronic gadgets in Mirpur, people had gathered to watch how Bangladesh would fare on the final day. They were confident that their team would be able to notch up a win. But as time passed, the hopes of the Tigers’ fans faded as Suranga Lakmal and Dilruwan Perera frustrated the visitors. Their stubborn resistance helped Sri Lanka to stretch the lead to 190.
Anything around 150-200 would be challenging for the Tigers on a fifth-day wicket, and with a bowler like Herath, it was an uphill task.
Bangladesh lost two wickets just before lunch and all of a sudden, the crowd in front of the electronics showroom, murmured about the return of the ghost of Basin Reserve, Chittagong, and Dhaka, when the Tigers failed to capitalise on their big opportunities.
“This is Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. I, Major Ziaur Rahman, at the direction of Bango Bondhu Mujibur Rahman, hereby declare that the independent People’s Republic of Bangladesh has been established. At his direction, I have taken command as the temporary head of the republic. In the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, I call upon all Bengalis to rise against the attack by the west Pakistani Army. We shall fight to the last to free our motherland. By the grace of Allah, victory is ours. Joy Bangla.”
Major Ziaur Rahman at Kalurghat Radio Station on March 27, 1971
After the massacre of March 25, 1971, Bangabandhu was arrested and kept in prison in a Pakistani jail. The nation needed someone to step up and instil hope. Amid the darkness, a cracking voice emerged on the radio. Major Ziaur Rahman had arrived to give the nation hope and fulfil the dream of independence from West Pakistan.
The Tigers needed such a bold character in the post lunch session and up stepped Tamim Iqbal and Sabbir Rahman, who showed that they could take the initiative when the situation demanded.
Sabbir was outclassed by a well-set trap in the first innings, while Tamim had to pay the price for his poor footwork. But in the second innings, Tamim’s footwork was well organised and his ability to place the ball from the middle of the bat consistently accelerated the scoring rate for Bangladesh.
Sabbir’s confidence grew and he was also not afraid to execute the reverse sweep with courage against the spinners. He kept rotating the strike to keep the fielders busy all the time. Both of them put the Tigers in a strong position to keep the dreams of millions of Bangladeshis back home alive.
Sabbir and Tamim were dismissed, but this Bangladesh team were in no mood to let go of this incredible opportunity. The nervy moments did not wreck the spirit of Mushfiqur Rahim, who steered the team safely to victory.
Bangladesh made their 100th Test a memorable one and when such a feat is achieved in March, it becomes even more special.
The month of March has a very special significance in the history of Bangladesh. The real battle for independence from West Pakistan commenced on this month, 46 years ago. It was a time when the whole nation united to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
From a cricketing point of view, Bangladesh have achieved astonishing victories in this month. From knocking out England in the ICC World Cup to shocking MS Dhoni’s men in the Asia Cup, to exhibiting character abroad in Tests – the spirit of the Tigers gains momentum in this month.
March is the month of independence for Bangladesh, and during this month, the whole nation always seeks for inspiration. The Tigers have given Bangladeshis hope amid the terrorist attack and instilled faith to face any situation with courage.