The rise of Bangladesh Cricket

Bangladesh batting, you are stuck in a traffic jam. You start watching the match 30 minutes late, expecting to see already 3 openers going back to the hut.

This was a common situation even till 2011. And batting collapses were something we the fans had made our peace with. Best case scenarios were an odd win here and there, and Shakib and Mushfiqur anchoring us towards a somewhat defendable total or a less shameful loss.

But not anymore.

2007 World Cup and finding our 5 heroes

Many critics argue that knocking down England from the World Cup 2015 was the start of our renaissance. But, the real flash of self-belief and an attacking mindset took root in the famous win against India in the 2007 World Cup.

The rise of Bangladesh Cricket

Tamim fearlessly coming down the track was a statement for a new brand of cricket. Shakib and Mushfiq both had chipped in with a fifty, with Mashrafe rattling down the Indian batting with his pace Bowling.

Our core group of 5 players, popularly known as ‘Ponchopandob’, including Mahmudullah Riad, are playing for the team together since 2007.

And thank heavens for this bunch.

Steady growth in the middle and ups and downs

In between 2007 and 2011, the most positive thing for Bangladesh cricket was the rise of Shakib Al Hasan as the top all-rounder in the world. Abdur Razzaq, the veteran left-arm spinner, also dominated the bowler rankings during this period.

Bangladesh had whitewashed mighty New Zealand. With the whitewash of a relatively weaker West Indies side, Bangladesh team was gradually making a statement.

But, there was this lack of consistency and it showed. The batting collapses in 2011 World Cup against West Indies and South Africa were stark examples of our inconsistency.

The sudden sparks of brilliance after the 2011 World Cup

Bangladesh had a disappointing series after the 2011 world cup and Tamim was facing a good amount of criticism for his lack of form. But the 2012 Asia Cup was somewhat of a bittersweet memory for Bangladesh. Bangladesh lost to Pakistan in the first match but won 2 consecutive matches against India and Srilanka, knocking both of them out. Tamim had scored four consecutive half-centuries and had made a statement.

The rise of Bangladesh Cricket

But Bangladesh had a heartbreak for falling short of 2 runs, and the iconic scene of Mushfiq and Shakib bursting in tears still haunts the fans till date.

2015 World Cup and a new brand of cricket for Bangladesh

Bangladesh had struggled to find a perfect opening partner for Tamim Iqbal. The problem was wonderfully solved by the inclusion of Soumya Sarker. His attacking form of batting was something the opposition was not used to seeing.

The rise of Bangladesh Cricket

Fast forward to World Cup of 2015. Bangladesh vs England. Rubel Hossain bowling an amazing reverse swing delivery and Nasir Hossain chanting, “The Bangla tigers knocked out the English lions out of the world cup”. This is arguably the most memorable scene for any Bangladeshi fan so far.

After the 2015 World Cup, Bangladesh had won 3 consecutive series against the giants Pakistan, India, and South Africa. This was a major statement to the cricketing world that a win of Bangladesh is no longer an upset. Huge credit needs to be given to Captain Fantastic about how he marshalled his troops and created a sense of togetherness in the Bangladesh team.

Rise of Captain Fantastic and not looking back

The rise of Bangladesh Cricket

Another magical finding was our very own ‘Fizz’. Mustafizur Rahman had taken the world by storm through his mystery bowling. Although injuries hindered much of his rhythm, he is still a key member of the Bangladesh squad.

The rise of Bangladesh Cricket

Bangladesh has now become a force to be reckoned with in the cricketing world. The team that got bowled out for 58 runs and 78 runs to West Indies and South Africa in the 2011 World Cup, scored over 300 runs against both of the teams in the World Cup of 2019. We have great depth in our batting and we don brand a new form of fearless cricket.

It took us a while to finally get here, but we’re here at last. And we’re here to stay.

An ode to deshi winters

Other countries get snow and all the wonders that come along with the soft white stuff, but having a mild, temperate winter means we Bangladeshis get a very different kind of experience. We have our own ways of celebrating and staying warm; our own culture and heritage define a lot of what we do in these months.

The fashion

Dust off the kombol suitcases and bring down the woolen sweaters tucked away in the back of the closet. You can spend away on faux leather jackets and Kashmiri shawls, how more often than not, winter clothing is strictly a fashion statement rather than being absolute necessities. It just doesn’t get that cold. Bangladesh’s mild winters mean the thermal underwear that you’d typically need to not die in the barren, frozen wastes of Canada is not needed. There is plenty of room to mix and match your winter style. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 4 Anything goes—from the traditional shawl wrapped over a suitably ethnic Panjabi, to hoodies emblazoned with the logos of your favorite English Premier League football team. Winter is a chance for already expressive Bangladeshis to show more of their style with each additional layer of clothing. The cold can still get to you (2018 saw the lowest temperatures in nearly 50 years), especially at night. It’s a good idea to cover up and take extra protection in the form of mufflers. 

The weddings

Summer weddings in Bangladesh are a terrible idea. Who wants to see the typical local aunty’s face-paint melting in the sweltering heat? How do you get around that? You shift the wedding plans to the end of the year and minimize the heat. Everyone has the same idea, and as a result, come December, you’re flooded with wedding invites and calls for holud dance rehearsals. It can get chaotic, but the serial wedding invites make winter a festive, happening time. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 2 It’s also prime relationship forging time. The single and ready to mingle crowd emerges. Winter weddings are a fortuitously romantic time to pine after well-dressed people you’ll never meet again.  We almost relish the hundreds of hours of ridicule from friends and family as you repeatedly claim that that the good-looking boy/girl totally smiled at you when you looked at them.

The winter sports

The Bangladeshi version of the Winter Olympics consists of hundreds of hours of badminton and some more badminton. People all over Bangladesh take to the streets and the fields, draw up badminton courts and pull out tattered nets, racquets and corks to jump, run and keep their bodies warm. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 3 Like everything else we Bengalis do, access to the court is determined through seniority and how well connected you are with the local boro bhais. If you’re just a young thug trying to make it big in the world of badassminton politics, you’ll probably be banished to a side court with no net and no lights. You’ll be lucky to get your hands on a racquet. Count your stars that you actually get to play some form of badminton each winter. Nonetheless, badminton is more of a community sport than anything else, and the strong sense of Bengali togetherness comes out in full force in winter.

The food

Does anything attain a special corner in Bengali hearts without some mention of food? Winter is no different. Winter means weddings. Weddings mean steaming plates of kacchi biriyani with a mouth-watering aloo on top. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 1 If that doesn’t make your mouth water, how about the plethora of different kinds of pitha? Cooked in oil, dipped in pungent shutki or wrapped in a sickly sweet coating of heaven, these diverse delicacies are something to look forward to all year. The melting mouthful of gur conjures up images of a simpler time and fill you with an incredible warmth in the winter chill. 

The empathy

Winters in Bangladesh may be mild compared to much of the rest of the world, but it does induce a lot of suffering in the less fortunate. While charity is far from the best method of alleviating that, it does play its part in bringing together people. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 5 Every blanket and donated clothing counts. It might just be the line between someone staying warm or suffering needlessly. So stack up and donate as much as you can, because that’s what we try to do—look out for one another.

6 Places to Watch The FIFA World Cup 2018 Final

The conclusion to one of the best FIFA World Cups is upon us. It’s been a rollercoaster of a tournament, seeing the defending champs Germany getting knocked out in the group stages thanks to losses to Mexico and South Korea, and favorites Argentina and Brazil getting knocked out in the second round and the quarter finals, respectively. The final today is between 1998 World Cup champions France and Croatia, who are playing in the finals for the first time in the short history of the independent nation. Whoever wins, history is sure to be made. There are multiple places in Dhaka where you can witness history with your friends and watch the final on a big screen. Here are 6 places you could consider watching the final of the world cup.

Arena Café & Lounge

Address: Ring Tower (4th Floor), 6/A Ring Road, Mohammadpur, Dhaka.

If massive screens are your only priority, then look no further than the 150-inch behemoth at Arena Café & Lounge. Arena offers the biggest screen in the city that’s not a movie theater, and it certainly has better food than most theaters. The only downside is that their seating capacity is a measly 60, meaning that you better call for a reservation right now if you want to watch the final on their giant screen.

Pizza Hut

Address: Multiple Locations

Even though the quality of their food has gotten abysmal in the recent years, Pizza Hut still boasts one of the better environments in the city, alongside a fairly big screen. It’s the perfect place to grab a slice of pizza with a large party of mates and watch the game. There are way too many Pizza Hut’s showing the final, so I suggest you hit up their facebook page to find out which Pizza Hut outlets showing the final is closest to you.

138 East

Address: House 10, Road 138, Gulshan 1, Dhaka.

One of the rising stars in the restaurant game, 138 East has also offered world cup viewing during this entire season, and the final is no exception. This is probably the best place for you to go if you want to have good food with your friends as you watch the game. It doesn’t boast a ridiculous screen to show the game on, but the TV at the restaurant does a decent job of showing the game in HD. Perfect if you’re more interested in the food and the environment, but still want to keep up to date with the game.

Tastebud

Address: House 52, Road 12/A, Block H, Banani, Banani Model Town, Dhaka.

Tastebud has been one of the favorite places for every sweet tooth in the capital. The fantastic desserts are enough of a reason to go to this place. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that they were showing the world cup on their rather large 75-inch HD TV.

The White Canary Café

Address: 40/8 North Avenue, Gulshan 2, Dhaka.

The only place on this list that mandatorily requires a reservation to even watch the game, The White Canary Café is surely one of the fanciest entries on the list. For all of its exclusivity, however, they will be showing the game on a projector instead of an actual screen. They are also offering a pizza for free for every two bought, while also organizing a contest of sorts for correct predictors of the final score and the man of the match, with the winners of the contest winning free desserts.

Blaze: Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden

Address: Airport Road, Dhaka Cantonment, Dhaka.

Easily the most expensive place on this list, Blaze is for those who are either rolling in money, or have saved up for the special event that is the final of the world cup. Situated at the Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden, Blaze boasts a giant LED screen to show the final, while having some seriously exclusive and delicious food. Reservation is not mandatory but would make your life much easier, as seats could vanish in an instant if all the rich people in Dhaka showed up to watch the game and have exquisite food. Easily the most exclusive place in the list, the only real drawback to watching it here would be the strain on your wallet. If that’s not an issue for you, then by all means, live it up.

There are many places in the city to watch the final and have food. Now you guys have fun visiting one of these places, while I go buy some fried street food to watch the game at home on my PC. No, I’m not jealous at all.

The end of an era – Ronaldo to Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo’s 105-million-euro move to Juventus after nine glorious trophy-laden years at Real Madrid rightfully sent shockwaves around the footballing world, with most discussions now moving on to assessing the implications of the transfer.

The Portuguese superstar underlined his unyielding love to the club he grew up supporting in his farewell letter while media speculation swirls that the reason for his leaving was mostly down to the Madrid giants not reciprocating that feeling in full.

The 33-year-old came to Real Madrid when they were staring down the barrel of Barcelona’s all-conquering gun and turned them into Europe’s most dominant force in recent history by virtue of 451 goals in 438 games that yielded 16 trophies — including four Champions League titles that he nearly single-handedly won as he finished as the competition’s top scorer six times over the past six years.

Overall, he netted an incredible 105 goals in Europe’s elite competitions since donning the storied white strip of Los Blancos, with 60 coming in the knockout stages — 20 in the last 16, 23 in the quarterfinals, 13 in semifinals and 4 in finals.

Those incredible performances also saw him claim the Ballon d’Or four times, with another — which would take him past Lionel Messi’s tally of five — possibly arriving this December.

When Ronaldo left Manchester United as one of the two best players in the world, fans accepted the decision knowing of his childhood love affair with Real that made the move an eventuality.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 10: Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United lines up a free kick during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on May 10, 2009 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

However, having won everything there is to have won and written his name in the annals of Real Madrid history, where he is now on a pedestal equal to if not above the likes of Alfredo di Stefano, Ronaldo’s move to Juventus leaves far more questions than answers.

The foremost among them being: why did he leave?

The Madrid press believe it had little to do with issues on the field. Yes, Ronaldo started the season slowly and that may have cost Real Madrid La Liga, but he more than made up for it with his yet-again astounding performances in the Champions League.

Real president Florentino Perez’s reported refusal to honour a bumper contract agreement made last year strained their relationship, with the agreed terms having never materialised.

However, the chief reason for the move is thought to be the tax case against Ronaldo. Although he has already been handed a hefty fine and a suspended sentence, the Portuguese is said to have been more than mildly annoyed by the fact that the club had not gathered around him as Barcelona did with Messi. He had expected Perez to wield his influence to make the case go away or at least reach a quick resolution. Instead, the breaking point was reportedly reached when Spanish authorities raided Ronaldo’s boat while his son was on board.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – JUNE 15: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal scores his team’s third goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Spain at Fisht Stadium on June 15, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

​”There are thousands of boats in Formentera and police with cameras boarded the smallest one, Cristiano Ronaldo’s one. Are we murderers or what?” the Portugal captain asked.

Career-wise, the move is certainly an interesting one. In the slower pace of Serie A, Ronaldo can prolong his career as he pushes into his mid-thirties. The system at Juventus should also serve him well and will no doubt be geared even more towards the striker than ever before.

What is of even more interest will be to see how Real Madrid fare.

They have lost a man who scored 33 percent of the club’s 1378 goals over the past last nine seasons and provided 119 assists. They have lost the man who has scored over 44 percent of their goals in the Champions League in their winning season.

There is every assurance that Perez, with 105 million and the other hundreds of millions at his disposal, will make a marquee signing or two or even three. However, the market is not in Real or Perez’s favour.

Paris Saint-Germain will be unwilling to let go of either Neymar or Kylian Mbappe if they are to be seen as a European giant, while Tottenham already inked a six-year deal local lad Harry Kane merely weeks ago.

Mohamed Salah could be tempted and Liverpool may not resist, while Eden Hazard is another possible signing. Robert Lewandowski, whose powers are on the wane, could also arrive. However, even the three of them combined may be unable to fill the giant void left behind by Ronaldo, especially in the Champions League where most teams have an embarrassment of riches.

With Juventus having shattered their wage structure to accommodate him, Ronaldo’s future is already secured and, more importantly, assured. What lies in store for the aristocracy of Madrid remains to be seen.

Takeaways from the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final- what the world is talking about

It was neither Gareth Bale’s double, nor Real Madrid’s hat trick of winning Europe’s premier competition that became the most talked about incidents from the 2018 UEFA Champion’s League final. Since the showpiece in Kiev, the most talked about incident has probably been Mohammed Salah’s injury in the hands of Sergio Ramos and the unfortunate shenanigans of Liverpool’s goalkeeper Loris Karius. While my Facebook news feed was blowing up with emotional statuses about Mo Salah’s world cup chances, there was the disappointing conclusion that he might not win the Ballon d’Or this year like many had hoped. Thus, the hopes of ending the ending the two-man-show Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo has been running for the past couple years have basically gone up in smokes. But apart from quite possibly missing out from the most prestigious individual award of the footballing world, the fact that Salah might not make it to Egypt’s World Cup squad is devastating for Egypt. The African side has only qualified for the World Cup finals for the third time and naturally they were putting high hopes on their star player who played a pivotal role in their world cup qualifier campaign.

The foul play that caused Mohammed Salah’s shoulder dislocation was nothing but controversial. People were mostly unanimous in the opinion that Sergio Ramos intentionally dragged him to the ground along with him. There were some who admitted seeing the video replay that it was Salah who was grabbing tight to Ramos’ arm which naturally caused him to go down along with him but for the most part, people were furious at the Spain international. Even when fans of Real Madrid were asked how they felt about the Salah injury, many of them expressed their sympathies. Dibbo Pradip Roy is such a fan and he adamantly opined, “The tackle wasn’t intentional and the replay clearly shows that. As a supporter of the opposing side, I have to admit that his absence might have helped us because Liverpool had much of the possession in the first half. As a fan of the game though, I feel sorry for Mohammed Salah. He is certainly an amazing player and the momentum totally shifted due to his injury. The game would have been more competitive and entertaining if he was on the pitch the whole time. In the end, we all want a good game of football, don’t we?”

The Real Madrid defender is no stranger to foul play. He has had many controversial moments (I’m not going to deny enjoying all the drama that goes on in La Liga. It is sort of my guilty pleasure.). I especially remember the time he infamously physically confronted Lionel Messi and his then Spanish teammates Carlos Puyol and Xavi Hernadez of Barcelona during a 2010 El Clasico showdown in which Real Madrid lost 5-0. Sergio Ramos has many red cards in his record due to his generally abrasive style of play but they have hardly ever caused such devastation that might be waiting for Egypt if Mohammed Salah does not recover in time to make it to the final 23-man world cup squad bound for Russia. The nations have until 4th of June to submit their final squad lists to FIFA authorities. Things are looking up now for Egypt though as the Egyptian Football Association has announced that Salah will be fit to play in the World Cup group stages. Egypt’s opening match is on 15th June against Uruguay and the second is against host nation Russia. Even if Salah does not recover in time for those two matches, he is sure to play in Egypt’s final group match against Saudi Arabia on 25th. A post on EFA’s Facebook page stated that he will not miss more than three weeks of World Cup action. As a Manchester United fan, I have never been one to feel sympathy for the Liverpool forward, but as a supporter of the underdogs in international competitions, I was certainly looking forward to seeing him in action in Russia as nothing but a well-wisher.

KIEV, UKRAINE – MAY 26: Loris Karius of Liverpool looks dejected following his sides defeat in the UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Liverpool at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium on May 26, 2018 in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

To highlight the dissatisfaction and widespread loathing towards the Madrid skipper after the final in Kiev, someone has actually started a petition calling for him to be “punished” and he has basically become Public Enemy No.1. The petition has reached over 217k signatures in less than a day and those did not belong only to Liverpool fans. An Egyptian lawyer has even filed a lawsuit for €1 billion against Sergio Ramos. The lawsuit is unlikely to ever reach the court but it goes proves how furious his countrymen were even though the Champions League final does not affect them directly.

For Liverpool fans, there wasn’t just the disappointment caused by Mo Salah’s injury, but to add salt to the wound, goalkeeping errors by Loris Karius messed up the entire game. Adding to the ultimate heartache of reaching the UEFA Champions League final for the first time in 13 years and with aspirations for a repetition the 2005 final in Turkey. But instead of a crucial match winning phantom goal, they were distressed by multiple goalkeeping errors by Loris Karius, by virtue of whom, Karim Benzema scored Madrid’s opening goal. Though, in the first half of the game he made a brilliant save when Christiano Ronaldo took a close range from inside the box which Karius deflected but Benzema immediately tapped in, only to be ruled offside by the linesman. Later Benzema got extremely lucky when Karius made the goalkeeping error of the decade. The situation was so utterly ridiculous that even one of the commentators could not help saying, “Unbelievable! Karim Benzema with a goal! Liverpool can’t believe it.” It was sheer dumb luck on Benzema’s part, but it served the purpose of completely demoralizing Karius.

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane made it even for the Merseysiders and it seemed like they again were on the right track with Mane making another attempt by hitting the crossbar. But Gareth Bale came on as a substitute for Isco in the 60th minute and executed a magnificent bicycle kick to put the defending champions in the lead. The Welshman’s second strike was owing to another blunder by Loris Karius who barely made an attempt to stop the ball or so it seemed. This gaffe made him prone to a particular meme on the internet comparing Karius to a candy bar called “Butterfinger”. The immediate reaction by Liverpool fans were understandably furious but Karius was visibly in tears after the game. He had to be hauled to his feet after the final whistle by goalkeeping coach John Achterberg. As he made his way to the stands to apologize to the travelling fans, he could barely contain the flood of tears. The scene was heartbreaking for many Liverpool fans and they later took to the social media with consoling messages and Liverpool’s age old slogan, “You will never walk alone”. On the other hand, not all Liverpool fans were that forgiving. Twitter flooded with anguished messages like, “You deserve to walk alone from Kiev to Anfield” and “Karius out”. One Liverpool fan went as far as to even call him a Nazi on Twitter. It’s safe to say that he wasn’t mellowed by Karius’ tearful display of apology.

Loris Karius put up a public apology on his Instagram account where he wrote, “Haven’t really slept until now. The scenes are still running through my head again and again. I’m infinitely sorry to my teammates, for you fans, and for all the staff, I know that I messed it up with the two mistakes and let you all down. As I said I’d just like to turn back the time but that’s not possible”. Some fans accepted the apology but could not quite forgive him and asked him to never wear the team’s jersey again. Some were entirely forgiving and were standing behind him 100% and encouraged him to come back stronger next time, if there even is a next time for him at the Merseyside outfit. Liverpool fan Samin Yasar expressed pretty much the same opinion when he said,” I forgive him but this should be the last time he wears the (Liverpool) shirt. I am not particularly sad because of losing because the road to the finals was great and I am glad we reached it.” The media has dubbed Karius the “worst transfer mistake for Klopp” ever since the 5 time European champion’s unfortunate day. It was a day that also marks Jurgen Klopp’s sixth straight defeat in a cup final. His last win in the finals of a tournament came in 2012 when Klopp’s side Borussia Dortmund beat Bayern Munich in a 5-2 win in the German Cup final. He later went on to lose two finals to Bayern Munich, namely, both the 2013 Champion’s League (when it was an all-German final) and the 2014 German Cup finals. Klopp’s latest defeat has shed plenty of the limelight on his losing streak and has become a matter of discourse among most football fans who has been following his career for most part of this decade.

Real Madrid fans weren’t completely free of petulance though. As per Cristiano Ronaldo’s ill-mannered tradition at the end of each season, he again threw doubts over his future at Santiago Bernabeu.  Ronaldo declared “it was very nice to be at Real Madrid” following his club’s third straight Champions League title. Cristiano Ronaldo played hardly any role in their Champion’s League final win against Liverpool and instead of congratulating and celebrating the sensational strike by Gareth Bale, he decided to drop a bombshell and made headlines in all the local newspapers. The timing of Ronaldo’s remarks caused bewilderment and anger among the rest of the dressing room and as well as fans, with many feeling it was not the right time to air his grievances. “He does it at the end of every season”, Real Madrid fan Jubair said. ”He raises questions about his future at the end of every season just to raise his market value and salary and then makes it clear that he isn’t going to leave. But saying this just to get the limelight after winning the Champion’s League was a bit selfish. Maybe he did not think it through but he definitely should have.” he went on to add. Even Real Madrid president Florentino Perez was vexed at Ronaldo for his ill-timed statements but Ronaldo later said that he isn’t going anywhere during the squad’s victory parade.

An ode to the superman of Cricket – AB De Villiers

As Cricket South Africa officially declared on 23rd May, AB De Villiers, the superman of cricket, has retired from all forms of international cricket effective immediately.

His decision certainly came as a shock to the cricketing community. “I have had my turn and to be honest, I am tired” said AB De Villiers earlier, making his decision public.

De Villiers, 34, made his first appearance in 2004 against England in a test match debut in Port Elizabeth and went on to become one of the most prominent cricketers of our generation. This South African batsman who made 360 batting popular was a living embodiment of entertainment on the field with a bat in his hand. He had played a total of 114 tests, 228 one-days international and 78 T20 internationals and has a total of 20,014 runs against his name across all formats.

Wanting to walk away while he was still in a good touch, an emotional De Villiers said, “It’s not about earning more somewhere else, it’s about running out of gas and feeling that it is the right time to move on. Everything comes to an end. To the cricket fans around South Africa and the World, thank you for your kindness and generosity, and today, for your understanding. I have no plans to play overseas, in fact, I hope I can continue to be available for the Titans in domestic cricket. I will continue to be the biggest supporter of Faf du Plessis and the Proteas.”

De Villiers has long expressed his desire to win a world cup playing for South Africa. He even took a break from test cricket in the 2016-17 season to avoid burnout and reserve himself for the world cup 2019.

With the decision coming now, de Villiers’ last international appearance will remain the last Test against Australia in Johannesburg, which South Africa won by 492 runs to win the series 3-1. In that match, de Villiers scored 69 and 6 to finish the series with 427 runs at an average of 71.16.

In recent days, De Villiers had become riddled with injuries and perhaps the fear of getting thrown out into oblivion had prompted him to make this untimely decision that has surely come as a blow to his fans and well-wishers.

De Villiers’ name might not get written down in history along with the likes of the cricketing greats such as Sachin Tendulkar and Don Bradman. But he will forever be remembered for his superhuman abilities in the field, no matter how short his career span was. It was not the quantity, but the quality of the game he played that had always spoken up when describing the calibre of AB De Villiers’ cricketing abilities.

As Rafid Rahman Turjya, a student of Dhaka University and a long-time fan puts it: “No matter what team you supported, you had to root for him. He scored, he entertained, he delivered. Very few ever live up to their talents like he did. Abraham Benjamin De Villiers, International Cricket will surely miss your Superhuman Calber. Take a bow, mister.”

5 most promising young cricketers in the world right now

As a fan of the sport, there is rarely anything as fun and genuinely exciting as watching promising youngsters taking on the big guns of cricket and standing their ground. Here are five of them who stand out as the next big thing in cricket. The only criteria of this list that is objective is the age of the cricketers, all of whom have to be under 23 to make it into this list. That means I will have to exclude many promising young talent such as Babar Azam from Pakistan, simply because they are a few months too old to be included. Also notable is how there are no Australian or English players on this list. This is due to the fact that in those countries, most cricketers have their international debuts after this cutoff age.

Shadab Khan (Pakistan)

The youngest player on the list, the only reason I’ve put this promising leggie so far below is because he’s still relatively untested. At the ripe old age of 19, he has already played 17 ODI matches, 13 T20I matches and a solitary test match as a member of the national team. Technically a bowling all-rounder in the domestic circuit, his claim to fame in ODI’s come from his stellar bowling performances against West Indies. Leg break bowlers are very rare to find in the age of T20I cricket, and even rarer is to find a leggie who can take wickets yet keep pressure on the batsmen. Considering the fact that he has the record for having the most economical figures in a T20I debut, he’s proven that he can do the latter. He was also a part of the Pakistani squad that won the 2017 Champions Trophy.  His maiden fifty against Sri Lanka in an ODI on the 17 of October, 2017 also shows batting prowess.

Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)

The second youngest player on this list is a bit more recognizable for having a stint in the 2017 IPL with Sunrisers Hydrabad and in BPL with Comilla Victorians. Rashid Khan is also the second leg spinner on the list, and the reason he’s rated above the previous entry is because unlike Shadab, he is a proven talent. He became the youngest player to top the ODI bowlers ranking this February. He would also end up topping the T20I’s bowler ranking the same month. He also became the youngest player to captain an international side this March during the World Cup Qualifier, at the age of 19 years and 165 days. Having broken the record for reaching the 100 wicket mark for ODI’s in only 44 matches, Rashid Khan is already going places no Afghan cricketer has gone before.

Mehedi Hasan Miraz (Bangladesh)

The first Bangladeshi to enter the list is the wily off break bowler and right handed batsman, Mehedy Hasan Miraz. Not to be confused with the procession of Mehedy’s before him in Bangladeshi cricket, Miraz made his mark as the captain of the under-19 side that made it to the semifinals of the 2016 Under-19 Cricket World Cup. He would lead the team to victory in the 3rd place play off, beating Sri Lanka. He was also named the player of the tournament, having scored 242 runs and taken 12 wickets in 6 matches. The reason I have ranked this 20-year-old higher than the last two is because of the dream debut series he had against England. Having seen how good he was in the Under-19 world cup, there was no doubt in the minds of the Bangladeshi selectors that they had found a rare talent, and Miraz paid back the trust in full. Despite being a spin bowler, he opened the bowling in the first test match against fellow debutant Ben Duckett and managed to turn him into his first wicket. He became Bangladesh’s seventh and youngest player to pick up a five-wicket haul on the debut test. In the next test match, he would become the 6th player in history to have taken three five-wicket hauls in the first two matches. He would also become the first Bangladeshi in history to get the man of the series award on debut.

Kagiso Rabada (South Africa)

A name sure to trigger PTSD in the regular Bangladeshi cricket fan, Kagiso Rabada is a speed demon from the land of the Proteas. His ODI debut was against Bangladesh, and he completely ruined any chance for them to win by plucking out 6 wickets for only 16 runs. As a Bangladesh fan myself, it’s hard not to be traumatized by the event. This only shows why he is ranked so high on this list. He would also become only the second player in history to pick up a hat-trick on ODI debut, behind only Bangladeshi spinner, Taijul islam. The 20-year-old would also become South Africa’s youngest to have a 10-wicket haul in a test match. The figure of 13 wickets for 144 runs would also become the second best bowling figure by a South African cricketer in tests, behind the Protea legend Makhaya Ntini. He already has taken 143 wickets after having played only 30 tests, with an outstanding bowling average of 21.59 at the time of writing this. With similar figures across the formats, it’s hard to see how he won’t end up with hundreds of international wickets by the end of his career.

Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh)

The 22-year-old left arm seamer is my choice for the best young prospect in cricket right now. The reason for picking him is simple: by the end of his debut ODI series, he had already made an argument for being possibly the greatest fast bowler the country has produced. He had already shown his merit in his international debut against Pakistan in a T20I match in April, 2015, having taken the wickets of Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez. He would become a superstar in a few months, taking a record breaking five wicket haul in both of his first ODI matches against India. We would finish the series with 13 wickets as Bangladesh would win their first ODI series against India. He would also star in the following series against South Africa, helping Bangladesh win it 2-1. He has since established himself as the centerpiece in the Bangladeshi bowling line up, as well as becoming a superstar in the IPL and other leagues around the world. He has dealt with injury for much of 2017, but has recently been rehabbed and come back to punish batsmen. His immense potential and miserly ODI bowling average of only 16 runs per wicket is why I’m placing the 2016 ICC Emerging Cricketer of the Year as the most promising young cricketer in the world right now.

Mo Salah – breaker of the Ballon d’Or duopoly?

Kaka. That explosive Brazilian was the last person to win the Ballon d’Or. The last person to pose a significant threat to a still-developing Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Since winning football’s most prestigious award in 2007, the man became the most expensive signing in world football, had his career decimated by injuries and retired. During the 10 years when all that was transpiring and after his career concluded, nobody else has won the Ballon d’Or although some have come close.

Andres Iniesta — who recently received an apology from France Football, the organisation responsible for handing out the Ballon d’Or, for never having one bestowed on him — had perhaps one of the best shouts in 2010; scoring the winning goal in the World Cup, where he put on one virtuoso performance after another. He was also one of the lynchpins of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona side of years past and had La Liga and a Champions league semifinal to his name to boot.

The closest contender to him at that point was thought to be Wesley Sneijder, a World Cup finalist and some would say the only creative outlet in Jose Mourinho’s Catenaccio-inspired Inter Milan side which went on the win the famed treble that year.

Yet, it was none other than Messi who won it for the 47 goals and 11 assists that he had picked up over 53 appearances. The biggest cog in the Barcelona machine despite not having scored a single goal as Argentina crashed out of the World Cup.

Fair or unfair, the reality that he won the 2010 Ballon d’Or reiterated the grim fact that performances alone were simply not going to be enough to win the award. In fact, many of the Ballon D’or’s critics would argue there has never been a consistent criterion to the award- which makes it all the harder to win.

It is then a testament to Ronaldo and Messi that there have not been any obvious choices aside from them — barring Franck Ribery in 2012.

Despite years of waiting there has not been a name who can contend with two of football’s greatest based not only on impact, but also on the jaw-dropping numbers that those two have put up on a yearly basis.

Enter Mohamed Salah.

His 43 goals in 47 appearances put him above both Ronaldo (42 goals in 40 apps) and Lionel Messi (40 goals in 50 apps) but, more importantly, the Egyptian has been doing it all for a Liverpool side punching well above their weight in Europe and, what’s more, he has been doing it from the start of the season.

After all, those are the differences to be considered between Messi and Ronaldo aren’t they?

Where Messi hit the ground running and sealed a potentially undefeated La Liga title for Barca by Christmas, Ronaldo only picked up in January and, in the process of proving that rumours of his decline were greatly exaggerated, scored by the bucket load and led Real Madrid, almost single-handedly, into the Champions League semifinals with a goal in each and every match of the campaign save the first leg at the Allianz Arena, tipping the scales of the Ballon d’Or in his favour.

In the meantime, Salah has done both. Not only has he been a driving force behind Liverpool’s run to the Champions League semifinal, he has also been the centerpiece of Liverpool’s run into the top four of the Premier League.

The only thing that may throw a spanner into the works, of course, is the World Cup. Egypt will have a tough time making it out of a group featuring hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay. If they do, they will have to face either Spain or Portugal, both sides that should, on paper, defeat Egypt.

However, should Salah either make it to the quarterfinals of world football’s showpiece event or if Ronaldo and Messi fail to make it deep into the tournament, the choice should be simplified.

Salah does not deserve to be judged by his team’s failures. He does not play for one of the best sides in club football nor does he represent a country in good standing in world football. He is a one-man show for Egypt and their qualification to the World Cup is a success in itself, bolstered by the fact that he was his nation’s top goal-scorer in qualifying.

His heroics for Liverpool have given them a season no fan could have fathomed at the start of the season. So while the debate rages between Ronaldo and Messi, Salah has every chance to break the duopoly that has gripped world football for a decade and it is possible that despite a potentially disappointing World Cup campaign, he will. And it would be deserved.

The diligent Frenchman: legacy of Arsene Wenger

It all started in the fall of 1996 when a fairly unknown French gentleman took the helm of the football club at Highbury, North London. One newspaper famously wrote the words,”Arsene who?”

Now, 22 years later, as he is about to let go of the reins, there is not a fan of the game who does not know the Arsenal manager. Deserving so, because this is the man who gave English football the Arsenal team of 2003-04 which earned the nickname “The Invincibles”. I was born the same year Wenger took the job so some of my earliest memories of watching football was this season in which Arsenal earned the title by remaining unbeaten for 38 matches in the league. Those were probably the best of the Highbury days.

When Arsene Wenger arrived at Highbury in 1996, he was a man ahead of is time. As fate would have it, he leaves now after 22 years of reign as a man out of step with the game. For Arsenal fans at least, it is a bittersweet moment. Many fans and experts would suggest that the appropriate time to step down was five years ago. Some would say it is a harsh assessment for a man who has given his club so much, but the it is hard to imagine that deep down the 68-year doesn’t know it as well. It’s true that he was the architect of both the bad and the good and was the mastermind behind both 1998 Double winning team and the 2004 “Invincibles” but statistics and trophy tallies don’t quite capture his influence because the qualities which made their beautiful fluid play has been absent from their game for the best part of the past decade. It was barely the shadow of the teams which brought out the flair and steel, determination and the breathtaking brilliance of the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp.

Despite Wenger’s legacy being tarnished in the recent years and despite being someone who supports a rival team, I feel it necessary to profess my respect and admiration for him. The former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has been leading the praises by calling the Frenchman “without doubt one of the greatest Premier League managers.” ‘

Indeed that is how many football fans feel as well.

When asked about how he felt about the retiring Frenchman, Bobby, a local Manchester United fan said, “Just like Sir Alex, he was a legend to his club, and deserving of being in the top 5 world’s greatest managers. Personally I’d say he was number 2 to Fergie”. He went on to add, “It was sad the way his fans called for him to go. Very sad”. Wenger himself said that the lack of “unity” among Arsenal supporters was “hurtful” to witness and says fatigue did not motivate his decision to leave. Many Arsenal supporters have been calling him out to resign for years. In recent months, some fans have even opted to boycott the home matches to send a sign of discontent with their club’s lack of success in recent years.

With the whole football community now looking back on his career with all of his achievements and failures, I cannot help reminiscing the days of intense but fantastic rivalry between Sir Alex and Arsene Wenger which are the stuff of legends. Both built fiercely competitive teams, which remain arguably the best the Premier League has ever produced. But while Sir Alex timed his United exit to perfection in 2013 after guiding the club to a 20th league title, Wenger might have stayed on too long. They say you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain.

Today is the last time Wenger plays at Old Trafford, the last time he walks out of that low tunnel into football’s most magnificent theater. His last trip to Old Trafford, which is the ground where so many of his career defining moments took place apart from Highbury and The Emirates, will certainly offer some emotional triggers. A place of such great battles- and with it, there may come the realization for Wenger that this is the beginning of the end.