Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Updated: Sunday, March 11, 2007
World Cup Preview: Bangladesh Aims to Enter The Big League

Khondaker Mirazur Rahman

The memories of World Cup cricket stir mixed emotions to the minds of Bangladeshi cricket fans. Before gaining ICC full membership, Bangladesh fought strenuously to feature in the world stages and only succeeded in 1999 after winning the ICC trophy 1997 by defeating Kenya.

Bangladesh’s arrival in the World Cup cricket created more noise than expected. After narrowly defeating Scotland at Edinburgh, Bangladesh emerged as the better team in the famous clash against Pakistan at Northampton although the result has since raised a few eyebrows.

Bangladesh hit their lowest in International Cricket at World Cup 2003. A hapless Bangladesh suffered hammering defeats against all oppositions including amateurish Canada.

After the dismal World Cup show, Bangladesh opted for Dav Whatmore, the mentor of Sri Lankan renaissance to turn the fate around. Dav succeeded largely to make Bangladesh a more competitive side and earned crucial victories against World Champions India, Sri Lanka and Australia. Bangladesh received an unofficial breathing space of 10 months in 2006 when they only featured against minnow countries except for the ICC Champions trophy. The break seemed to work for Bangladesh as they went on to win 17 out of 20 matches, albeit against less illustrious opponents like Zimbabwe, Kenya and Scotland.

Now, another world cup cricket is knocking at the door. Bangladesh is placed in group B along with Sri Lanka, India and Bermuda in this Caribbean edition of World Cup. While most cricket pundits do not expect Bangladesh making the cut beyond initial stages, the Tigers, however, feature a different frame of mind this time around. For the first time, they can fashion their chances of moving up the table, more so after beating the in-form Kiwis. Maverick coach Dav Whatmore and captain Habibul Bashar aren't shy either to be vocal.

Bangladesh made perfect preparation for the world cup challenges ahead. After winning the ICC tri-series involving Bermuda and Canada at Antigua at a canter, they made the most out of the two official warm up matches. In the first match against New Zealand, they instantly silenced the critics by an amazing two wicket win. Bangladesh displayed impressive performance and dominated in every department from the word go. With confidence running high, Tiger's tsunami of adrenaline overwhelmed Scotland who didn't even stand a chance in the second warm up match.

Now, to progress into the second round ahead of either Sri Lanka or India might look fanciful but not impossible if the past is of any indication. Bangladesh is rapidly becoming a good ODI outfit and has good records behind them over the last one year. The only nick is the differences of levels of cricket they had played over that period and that of the World Cup. Bangladesh achieved the confidence from their successes against relatively weaker oppositions. For world cup success; they have to use that confidence to change the gear in their pursuit of winning a second round berth. They have the potential and means to make the astounding dream come true. The big question remains whether they will be able to change the level of cricket and translate potential into performance? The prospect, however, looks more promising than ever before specially after the exciting display against the Black Caps.

Ignore them at your own peril

Ignore them at your own peril.

And in Shahriar Nafees, they have unearthed an opener who is more than capable of the anchor role with controlled aggression allowing the likes of Mohammad Ashraful and Aftab Ahmed to run havoc with the bat in the middle. They are taking a gamble with boom boom Afridi style opener Tamim Iqbal who can turn the match around in his days and can be destructive in small Caribbean grounds. Captain Habibul Bashar and young all-rounder Sakib Al Hasan are hitting forms in the right time. Inclusion of former U19 captain Mushfiqur Rahim as wicket keeper gave the side an extra edge for all season.

While Mashrafe Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain continue to produce penetration and aggression with the new-ball they lacked for years, the army of slow left armers of Bangladesh is keen to exploit and rule the often turning surfaces of the carribean. Mohammad Rafiq and Abdur Razzak are two world class spin bowlers and Sakib Al Hasan is becoming increasingly confident in his bowling. While the lack of variation is somewhat of an worry against spin maestro nations like India and Sri Lanka, Tigers got the discipline of one day bowlers with "Ignore at your own peril" written all over.

In the end, Bangladesh will probably make early exit from the World Cup but taking them lightly might turn the Cup dream into nightmare for any team.

Bangladesh continues to become more and more visible after each passing series. A young side with average age of 22 and so much potential can only get better. A country with 150 million people and a hefty cricket fan base will no doubt be a powerhouse of world cricket in time with due care. Before reaching that mark, the Tigers will have to do everything right on the field and expect others to make mistakes to extract some gold on the way.