Still in search of a breakthrough

Bangladesh have an exciting bunch of players, especially in their batting, but the high hopes of their fans belie reality. (AFP File Photo)

Having made their World Cup debut in 1999 in England, the Tigers return to the country for their fifth appearance in the quadrennial event, their reputation enhanced but still unable to break into the ring of favourites.

Bangladesh have an exciting bunch of players, especially in their batting, but the high hopes of their fans belie reality. The misplaced confidence of supporters and their team’s unreasonable expectations from themselves have often spelt their doom in big games, where staying calm and collected becomes critical to the outcome.

Time and again, Bangladesh have shown they have the ability to beat any top team on their day but to take their game to that level, they need to bring to the table much more than their cricketing skills. While there has been definite progress in that direction, they still have to graduate from being referred to as minnows.

Post the 2015 World Cup, when they made the quarterfinals before losing to India, Bangladesh have managed to string together quite a few wins against top sides. The semifinal appearance in the 2017 Champions Trophy and a tilt at the final in the 2018 Asia Cup – both times losing to India – are encouraging signs for a team with great potential and it remains to be seen if they can improve upon their 2015 World Cup showing.    

This is perhaps Bangladesh’s strongest team ever to appear in a World Cup and it has the right mix of youth and experience. In Mashrafe Mortaza, they have an inspirational leader who has the support of a highly experienced group. Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad have been the fulcrum of their batting for a long time while pacers Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman and Mortaza himself are proven customers with the ball.

Given the all-play-all format, Bangladesh may find it tough to consistently churn out winning performances against top-ranked teams but Mushfiqur believes the format will actually work in their favour.

“It’s tough, but possible (to reach semifinals)”, said Rahim recently. “I personally believe that we have the ability to reach the knockout stages, and anything can happen if we can reach that point.”   

The 31-year-old batsman also acknowledged Bangladesh’s inability to win finals. Over the last few years, Bangladesh have made it to the finals of six limited-over tournaments, losing all of them thus putting a big question mark over their big-game temperament.

“Having most experienced players in the team, this is the strongest World Cup team that Bangladesh have ever had. We lost many finals in the recent past. Maybe, a big achievement is waiting for us in the future.” 

Will Mushfiqur’s words turn out to be prophetic this time?

The squad: Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah Riyad, Shakib Al Hasan, Mohammad Mithun, Sabbir Rahman, Mosaddek Hossain, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mehidy Hasan, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Jayed.

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