"Pakistan win trophy but Bangladesh win hearts" has been the refrain since the Asia Cup ended and cliche as it might be, it succinctly sums up the events of the tournament. Sometimes the losers are so gallant, so lion hearted in defeat that they garner more space than the winners and few will disagree that Bangladesh are worthy of all the adulation they are getting at the moment.
Indeed the eleventh edition of the Asia Cup could well mark the coming of age for Bangladesh who over the years have come in for a lot of criticism for not living up to their status as a Test playing nation. But whatever their abysmal record in Tests, they have not done too badly in limited overs cricket.
They have notched up at least one victory over all the senior Test playing nations but what was frustrating for the home supporters - and they are really passionate about the game - was the manner in which the team frequently flattered only to deceive.
For example after victories over India and South Africa in the 2007 World Cup, they went down to Ireland. One also recalls how Bangladesh lost to Kenya and Canada in the 2003 World Cup. This coming four years after they had registered a shock victory over Pakistan disappointed their supporters no end.
What Bangladesh lacked was a string of notable victories that would mark them out as opponents who could not be taken lightly. And while now and then they proved to be worthy opposition, Bangladesh was not really an opponent to be feared.
Perhaps the players lacked the killer instinct and thus failed to rise to the occasion in a major competition. Certainly they have not lacked proper direction for the players have been in the hands of some of the best foreign coaches and the Bangladesh Cricket Board have spared no time, effort and money in giving the team the best of resources.
Now however things are changing for the better as events in the Asia Cup underlined. The present generation of Bangladesh players is temperamentally much stronger. They are not overawed by the opponent's reputation. Their four matches in the just concluded competition emphasized this. They were on the verge of victory in their opening match against Pakistan before they stumbled.
There was no faltering however in the next game against India which certainly was the highlight of their campaign. And the manner in which they made light of a tough task against Sri Lanka cemented their growing image. And of course the way they fought like Tigers - which is what they are known as popularly - in the final won them more fans around the cricketing world.
No team should be over dependent on one or two players but there is little doubt that Bangladesh's leading cricketer today is Shakib Al Hasan. Indeed he is the one star they have and this is underlined by him figuring prominently in the ICC rankings list. For some time now, he is the No 1 ranked Test all rounder in the game - ahead even of Jacques Kallis - and that speaks volumes of the 25-year-old ubiquitous player's talent and ability.
Though there are a couple of other world class players in the Bangladesh side, Shakib is the shining light. For good measure he is ranked No 2 among the ODI all rounders - next only to Shane Watson - and occupies the No 7 slot when it comes to ODI bowlers.
Kohli will get even better with a cool head
Shakib is always in the game playing a bright little knock in the middle order, picking up a couple of wickets with his accurate and incisive left arm spinners and is a safe catcher. He is the kind of player any Test or limited overs side would welcome with open arms.
Another who symbolizes the upswing in Bangladesh's fortunes is Tamim Iqbal. He is quite focused, determined to improve and bold and adventurous in his strokeplay. An infectious zeal and a hunger for success marks his approach. The manner in which he signaled to the pavilion during the final against Pakistan that he had now got four successive half centuries in the tournament was typical of Tamim.
The aggressive left handed opening batsman attracted considerable attention in England a couple of years ago when his no holds barred approach to batsmanship brought him back to back electrifying Test hundreds even as he treated bowlers of the calibre of James Anderson, Steve Finn, Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann with disdain. He was hailed as an exciting prospect and though he has fallen off a bit since those heady days at 23 he has age on his side.
Besides these two, Bangladesh have a few good players in Mushfiqur Rahim, Mashrafe Mortaza and Abdur Razzaq. And even if their Test record is patchy, the showing in the Asia Cup is bound to have a profound impact on Bangladesh cricket. Indeed it is important for Asian cricket that Bangladesh continue to show improvement. Cricket is almost a religion in the country and capacity crowds thong the stadium for international matches.
Sponsors and patrons are ready to do more than their bit for Bangladesh cricket but they would like their team to be a bit more deserving of lucrative sponsorship deals. The events of the Asia Cup could well turn out to be watershed in the development of cricket in Bangladesh.