>EVEN before The Daily Star fighters made it on to the turf, they had reason to cheer as their manager Julfikar Ali Manik announced, “I will throw a party for you guys if you reach the final. There will be a khasi (goat) for you.” Pepsi was poured into glasses as each one of them put their heads together trying to work out a plan to ‘kill’ their opponents in their opening match against the UNB news agency the following morning. (Full story)
Everyone knew it was a cunning ploy by the professional manager to motivate the players. Coach Pinaki Roy, meanwhile, appeared very serious saying; “If you fail to perform with both the bat and ball…” he didn’t feel the need to finish the sentence, taking it for granted that the message got through to his players. The players jokingly acted as if they were very frightened.
But skipper Abul Kalam Azad was cool in his approach, “We will not play…we’ll just have some fun and enjoy the games.”
The Star team comprising both young talent and experienced players did not take much time to prove their ability in the six-a-side Pepsi-DRU Cricket Tournament. In the opener they crushed UNB with ease. A Disciplined bowling performance eventually crushed UNB. “It is you who have the ability to win the trophy,” Shamim Ahmed, chief reporter of the private news agency, said in reaction after the match.
The1 Star team faced resistance in the second match against The Daily Ittefaq but that was not enough to beat the aspiring champions. The only match in which the Stars struggled was the quarter final against the controversial Amader Orthoniti team. The Stars had to bowl a tight line and length to defend their paltry total. Eventually though, The Star came out victorious by five runs. The win was a significant boost for the Star players who dreamed of clinching the title that they felt they deserved.
The spirited team quite literally crushed The Independent in the semifinal. It was made possible due to a professional performance by the Star player’s in every department– batting, bowling and fielding. Although the Star captain took his team to the semi-final almost single-handedly, the prolific batsman was sure a couple of players would shine with their bats soon. And he was right. While fast bowler Jasim Uddin Khan proved his worth with his best bowling figures both in the semi-final and the final, his opening bowling partner Shamim Asharf and the experienced Shariful Islam contributed their best in the last two crucial encounters.
Star recruit Shafiqul Alam finally showed some of his flare and returned to his usual batting form in the final match against Bhorer Kagoj. But it was the skipper Abul Kalam Azad who failed with the ball but was consistent with bat as he was against all of the Star’s competitors. His 149 runs in five matches with an amazing average of 49 were more than enough to get the ‘Best Batsman’ and ‘Man of The Tournament’ awards. He was also adjudged man of the match in the first three consecutive games.
The wicket keeper-cum-batsman Helemul Alam was as usual brilliant behind the stumps. On the other hand, Suranjith Deabnath, who got the chance to play in only the first match, later found himself nowhere but made a valuable contribution in the field as a replacement for Shamim Ashraf who was suffering from severe fever. He had to take five Paracetamols to forget the fever as he was determined to displace the opponents stumps.