Just ten days after their grueling tour of South Africa, India was to participate in the Nidahas trophy in Sri Lanka, a tri nation T20 championship trophy also involving Bangladesh. Most of the key Indian players including Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah were rested. On paper, this series looked subdued, as if it was just aimed at helping the Sri Lankan cricket board raise some money. However, for the entertainment it has provided, it will be remembered as one of the best tri-series in recent memory. It might also encourage boards to schedule T20 series even when the marquee players are rested.
Even though India didn’t field its strongest side, they were expected to dominate all the games. The tournament opener was between the hosts Sri Lanka and India. It was supposed to be a cakewalk for India as Sri Lanka isn’t as much of a threat as it was in its glory days. But Kusal Perera’s glorious assault singlehandedly won the game for the Lankans. Kusal Perera has the clubbing power of Sanath Jayasuriya and the wicket keeping talent and grace of Kumara Sangakkara. He is someone who IPL owners must be on the lookout for in the future. Suddenly what was supposed to be a boring series became interesting.
The next game was between India and Bangladesh, and as expected, India steamrolled Bangladesh. This game announced the arrival of Washington Sunder, who proved that his performance in the first game was no fluke. Bangladesh without their captain Shaquib couldn’t really compete against a strong Indian side, which was in no mood to lose after its surprising defeat in the first game.
The third game was between the hosts Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It was a high scoring classic. Kusal Perera and Kushal Mendis led Sri Lanka to 214/6 in their 20 overs. Kushal Perera again showed his class. In reply, Bangladesh started off well with Tamim Iqbal and Liton Das hammering 75 runs in the power play. But it was Mushfiquar Rahim who became the hero, as he chased down the formidable score by scoring 72 runs in 35 balls. It was Bangladesh’s highest successful run-chase in a T20 game.
And out came the infamous Nagin dance, a playful saga that had begun during Sri Lanka’s tour of Bangladesh. Tempers were flaring but it was nothing when compared to what was in store in their next game. Bangladesh once again brought the Nagin dance to Nidahas series.
Games four and five were a formality as India crushed both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh with relative ease and stormed into the finals. Washington Sunder continued to impress. Rohit,Dhawan and Raina were among the runscorers.
The final game in the round robin was an effective semi final between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Sri Lanka started disastrously and were 41/5 by the end of 9th over. At that point, they would have been happy with 120 or 130, but Kushal Perera had other ideas. Playing his most cautious knock yet, he and Thisara Perera carried Sri Lanka to 159/7 in 20 overs, a score that looked impossible at the half way mark of the Sri Lankan innings.
Bangladesh started confidently with Tamim scoring a half century but slowly started running out of steam after Tamim’s dismissal. When Alonso got rid of Mushfiqur , he started off with snake charmers flute celebration. In came Mahmudullah who kept calm amidst the chaos around him.
A decade worth of bitterness was packed into the final over. It started with the umpire’s failure to call the second delivery of that over a no-ball for height. Mahmudullah confronted the umpires, trying to force them to award a no-ball that would make the requirement 11 of 5 balls with a free-hit in hand, instead of 12 of 6 balls. Mustafizur was run out attempting a quick run amidst this madness.
Meanwhile, Nurul Islam, the architect of the Nagin dance and a substitute fielder was shoved by Upul Tharanga during an argument. Shakib charged down from the dressing room and threatened to forfeit the game. A door in the Bangladesh dressing room was found shattered later. When the match finally resumed, Mahmudullah finished it off by hoisting the ball over the square leg boundary when 6 runs were required off the last 2 balls, propelling Bangladesh to the finals. The ugly Nagin dance then began in full swing, mocking the crowd and the Sri Lankan players.
Two years ago, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah were guilty of celebrating too early as Bangladesh failed to score two runs in three balls and crashed out of the tournament. In the Nidahas Trophy, Mushfiqur Rahim played the innings of his life, and Mahmudullah kept his cool, helping Bangladesh reach the finals.
The final of the Nidahas Trophy was played before a loud full-house despite the fact that the home team wasn’t playing. Most of the home fans cheered for India in the fina,l fuelled by resentment against Bangladesh in the previous game.
In the finals against India, Bangladesh did everything they could while defending a modest score but they ran into Dinesh Kartik, who played the innings of his life. Bangladesh once again squandered a sure win, leaking 34 runs in the last two overs.
The Nagin dance was killed, and on that day, Bangladesh neither won the trophy nor any hearts.
Dinesh Kartik surely deserves a spot in the 2019 world cup. Dhoni can’t be replaced but yes, I think it is the end of the line for Manish Pandey, who had innumerable chances to prove himself but failed. Vijay Shankar may get a few more chances, but for India, the find of the tournament was Washington Sunder.
Sunder’s performance might put Ashwin’s place in the limited overs side under threat. He was not only the man of the series, he bowled 13 of his 20 overs in the power play and had an economy of less than 6 runs per over.
All said and done, the Nidahas trophy entertained on a scale like no other T20 tournament and unearthed champions for all the countries involved. Hopefully, we have seen the last of the Nagin dance.