Najmul Hossain Shanto and Taijul Islam walked down the stairs from the picturesque Bangladesh dressing room, towards the post-match presentation area on Saturday. There was no real rush. The usually crowded hangers-on zone, somewhere near the dressing room and the presentation area in Bangladeshi stadiums, was nearly empty. It was only 11am in Sylhet and Bangladesh's resounding win over New Zealand in Sylhet was slowly sinking in.
The Bangladesh players had done the usual end-of-match protocols before walking into the dressing room. Only Shanto and Taijul walked out. Mushfiqur Rahim watched briefly from the window. There was very little obvious celebration from the team. The 18,000-capacity stadium was all but empty too.
Selector Habibul Bashar and media manager Rabeed Imam were standing in front of the Bangladesh dugout. Bashar, the former Bangladesh captain, wondered who would get the Player-of-the-Match award. He was mostly convinced Taijul should get it for his 10-wicket match haul. "You can't really forget Shanto's innings too," he said. "He scored that century on the third day, getting us on the victory path."
It may seem like the quietest of wins for Bangladesh, but its magnitude is palpable to those within and outside the dressing room. If you put Sylhet against what went on in the World Cup, the picture becomes clearer. Bangladesh lost seven out of nine games in India, and the fans turned their backs on the team to the extent that they even called off the protests they had planned at the Dhaka airport. Nobody cared, and it showed.
There are interesting parallels with Bangladesh's famous victory in the Mount Maunganui Test last year. Then, Bangladesh had had a woeful T20 World Cup campaign followed by a disastrous home series against Pakistan. Key players were injured. Nobody paid much attention, until they conjured up a miracle in New Zealand.
This one in Sylhet didn't look like a miracle but turning around from such a World Cup campaign wasn't going to be easy. The regular captain and vice-captain were out. Two of the main pacers were missing. The senior opener remained injured.