Bangladesh could be a team to watch out for
Kolkata: Home conditions, current form, youthful vigour and a balanced team composition could make Bangladesh the side to watch out for in the cricket World Cup which is set to go cracking next week in the sub-continent.
Now ranked the world’s number eight One-day International team, the co-hosts of cricket’s showpiece event have the advantage of playing all their group matches on home soil, beginning with the game’s opener against India in Dhaka next Saturday.
The inaugural match itself could bring back nostalgic memories for the Shakib-al-Hassan led Bangladesh team. Several of the present crop of players were in the side which had inflicted a shock five-wicket defeat on India in the previous edition of the World Cup in the Caribbean.
The 2007 World Cup proved to be a fairy tale of sorts for the populous South Asian nation which marched into the Super Eight where they again scalped South Africa before making an honourable exit.
The showing had signalled to the cricketing fraternity that Bangladesh - which has taken part in all World Cups since 1999 - could no more be considered pushovers on the big stage. It was also a sharp improvement from Bangladesh’s poor record in the 2003 World Cup, where they ended up losing all their matches.
The team’s build up to the coming quadrennial extravaganza - also hosted by India and Sri Lanka - has also been promising. Bangladesh annihilated New Zealand 4-0 before finishing off 2010 with an emphatic 3-1 win over Zimbabwe in limited over competitions at home. They also gave a scare to England before losing 1-2 in an away series.
Shakib seems confident.
“We have been playing good cricket for the last 15 months, and if we qualify for the second round, why not think of something big,” Shakib said recently. “We need to win at least four matches to win a place in the second round. It is not difficult. I think we are capable of booking a place in the second round.”
Clubbed in group B, alongside formidable England, India, West Indies, South Africa, and minnows Netherlands and Ireland, Bangladesh’s hopes lie mainly on the multi-faceted abilities of Shakib - rated the world’s leading all-rounder in ODIs now - as also the exploits of aggressive left hand opener Tamim Iqbal, flamboyant middle order campaigner Mohammad Ashraful and experienced left arm spinner Abdur Razzak.
Shakib, Tamim and Razzak were vital cogs in Bangladesh’s impressive Cup outing in 2007, and would provide the much needed experience to a young side with an average age of around 24.
Razzak (28) is the oldest player in the squad, while eight of the 15 members are yet to make their debut in the high-profile tournament.
The bowling, however, has been considerably weakened by the absence of the injured Mashrafe Mortaza, and much would depend on young Shafiul Islam’s success with the new ball alongside Rubel Hossain.
Squad: Shakib-al-Hassan (captain), Tamim Iqbal, Abdur Razzak, Mohammad Ashraful Suhrawadi Shuvo, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Mushfiqur Rahim (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Mahmudullah, Naeem Islam, Raqibul Hasan, Rubel Hossain, Shahriar Nafees, Shafiul Islam and Nazmul Hossain.
Fixtures: Feb 19 vs India (Dhaka), Feb 25 vs Ireland (Dhaka), Mar 4 vs West Indies (Dhaka), Mar 11 vs England (Chittagong), Mar 14 vs Netherlands (Chittagong), Mar 19 vs South Africa (Dhaka).