The curtain will be lifted on the ICC World Cup 2019 on May 30, which commences with the match between England and South Africa, the final match being held on 14 July. Who is going to be the World Champion? This is the big question!
If you ask any cricket pundit, anybody will say that England, Australia, India, South Africa, and New Zealand the favorites to win the World Cup this time. Very few of them will have the audacity to declare Bangladesh as one of the favorites to win the greatest prize in cricket. But why not? Bangladesh has the second most experienced side in the World cup. Bangladesh is currently in seventh place in the ODI ranking, whereas Pakistan has won the Champions trophy whilst occupying the number 8 position. So, it’s not impossible for Bangladesh to win the World Cup, it’s a dream that can become a reality.
Bangladesh began their World Cup journey in 1999, after being champions in the 1997 ICC trophy. In their first World cup campaign, Bangladesh beat Scotland and former World Cup champion Pakistan. Since that time, 20 years have passed, and Bangladesh has become a force to reckon with in the cricketing world. In these 20 years, Bangladesh has experienced both glorious victory and also abysmal defeat. But Bangladesh come to this World Cup with their best possible squad: one that doesn’t fear anyone, one that goes into every match to win.
There was a time when Bangladesh beating another team would have been considered an upset – but that’s not the case anymore. Now, Bangladesh could beat anyone at any venue, and there would be nothing surprising about it.
Now let’s talk about the key strengths of the Bangladesh as a team, and how they can become the world Champions:
Experience and Youth: Bangladesh team is the second most experienced side in this World Cup. India is the most capped side in the World Cup with 1573 appearances among them. They surpass Bangladesh by 274 appearances. There are four players in Bangladesh’s squad who have played three world cups. There are seven cricketers in Bangladesh who will be playing their first world cup. So, there is a good combination of experience and youth in the Bangladesh squad. Mashrafe, Shakib, Tamim, Mushfiq and Mahmudullah all have played more than 150 ODI’s among themselves, and their immense experience will come in handy in this World Cup.
Young players like Mustafizur Rahman, Souymya Sarker, Mosaddek Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Mehedi Hasan Miraz,Liton Das have also proven their ability in the international cricket arena. In the last tri-nation series win, these youngsters played an important part in clinching the crucial victory. In order to win the World Cup, both seniors and juniors have to play at their very best, and they have to do this more consistently. Indian legendary leg spinner Anil Kumble also believes this; “The experienced players of Bangladesh will do well in the World Cup, but it’s the youngsters who have to play well more consistently.”
The five Musketeers: In France there were four musketeers, but in Bangladesh they have five Musketeers. Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riad. These five have been through many ups and downs for Bangladesh, they have seen it all. This would be their last World Cup together, so they would want to give one last push to make it to the end. The new era of Bangladesh cricket that began with Mushfiqur Rahim hitting the winning four against India in 2007 may well end with him hitting the winning six in the world cup final: who knows?
The Captain Fantastic: Mashrafe Bin Mortaza is an inspiration in Bangladesh cricket. He is a leader like no other. Mortaza has suffered several significant injuries throughout his career, but every time he came back stronger than ever. Mashrafe is more like a big brother to every member in the Bangladesh squad. He is a leader from whom the youngsters can seek advice about anything. Mashrafi is the glue that holds the Bangladesh team together. He also has the highest winning percentage among the Bangladeshi captains. Masrafe captained Bangladesh in 77 matches so far, in those he won 44 of them, with a winning percentage of 58.66. Mashrafi Mortaza also recently won Bangladesh’s first ever tri nation series in Ireland, in a decisive fashion. This is Mashrafi’s fourth World Cup, and he declared he will retire from international cricket after this. So, the boys will certainly want to give a very special display to their iconic leader, as a parting gift that he will never forget. Mashrafi Mortaza also knows that the cricket pundits hasn’t thought of the team as favorites, and he wants to change that perception.
“If you ask all the experts, analysts and former players about their favourites for this World Cup, none of them will pick us,” Mortaza told reporters.
“I think we can change some perceptions if we can do something this time, more than how much it changed in the past. It is a great opportunity for us.”
Number one all-rounder: Who is the number one all-rounder in the World? The answer is known to all, its Shakib Al Hasan. Shakib has been the poster boy of Bangladesh for a long time now. He has played in the IPL, Big Bash league, CPL and many other franchise leagues in the World. His immense experience will be of great help in the World Cup. Shakib also believes this is the time that Bangladesh will lift the World Cup, and he has given his everything to prepare for it. “I’ve worked harder for this World Cup than for anything else in the last 5-6 years, “he has said. Shakib is also close to achieving a personal milestone in this World Cup, as he is just one wicket way from entering the elite club of players who have taken 250 wickets, and scored more than 5000 runs! So, if Shakib stays fit in the World Cup, his left arm spin and middle order can orchestrate the dream of Bangladesh winning the world Cup for the first time.
The Dashing Opener: Tamim has brought about a revolution in Bangladesh cricket. At first he was just known for his power hitting. But he has changed his playing style, for the betterment of the team. Now he is more sensible, he has become Bangladesh’s premier batsman. Tamim’s revolution began after the 2015 World Cup: that much is clear, if we examine his average after that competition. Tamim Iqbal played total 193 matches in his career, his average is 36.26 – but after the 2015 World Cup, he scored 2665 runs in in 58 matches, with an average of 58.85 runs. Tamim also averages highest among the openers in the last two years. Tamim’s calm and collective batting can be the guiding light for Bangladesh in the World Cup.
Formidable Middle order: Without a doubt Bangladesh has one of the best middle orders in this World Cup. Musfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riad are the pillars of Bangladesh. Once, Bangladesh’s innings crumbled like a house of cards under pressure, and Bangladesh lost wickets at regular intervals. But Mahmudullah and Mushfiq have changed that situation. Now Bangladesh can endure the pressure even if the top order falls – and that’s because of these two veterans. Young guns like Sabbir Rahman and Saifuddin will also have to support these two to be successful in the World Cup.
Enthusiastic fan base: Bangladesh has the most enthusiastic and loyal fan base in the world, and the 2nd biggest fan base in cricket after India. Fans support Bangladesh through thick and thin. Bangladesh’s fans presence is noticeable both in home games and away matches in foreign countries. It’s no surprise that a lot of fans will fill the stadiums of England to support Bangladesh. Recently in the practice match against Pakistan, Bangladeshi fans occupied 16 thousands seats among the 24 thousands seats available in the stadium. So, it’s obvious Bangladesh’s support would be enormous in this World Cup, and this could give the squad the inspiration required to do the impossible.
Everything has it’s strengths and weaknesses. Bangladesh has few soft spots too that they have to pay attention to, in order to become champions in this World Cup.
Choking under Pressure: Cricket is an emotional business in Bangladesh. Bangladesh play their cricket with a lot of emotion. Consequently they often choke when it matters the most. We have seen this previously, in the Asia cup final of 2012,2016, Nidahas trophy and on many other occasions. They lost all these finals at the very last moment because they couldn’t handle the pressure. But things are changing, as Bangladesh won their first final in Ireland, after failing in their previous six attempts. If Bangladesh can control their emotion, and play to their strengths, they can become the World Champion.
Lack of pace in Bowling: Bangladesh has four fast bowlers in their squad. They are: Mashrafi Bin Mortaza, Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain and Mohammad Saifuddin. Of these, only Rubel bowls above 140 kmp/h, but he is not exactly a sure starter in the world cup. Bangladesh’s pace bowling attack is perfect for home conditions, (in slow fuzzy wickets) but how effective they will be in England remains a burning question. But there is a silver lining: if Bangladeshi bowlers can bowl according to the plan, maintain their line and length, and bring some variation into their bowling, they will be able to contain the batsmen in England.
Poor away record: Bangladesh has a tremendous winning record at home in the last few years, but their performance away from home is not all that good. As we have seen, they performed very poorly in the recent New Zealand series. Since 2015, world cup Bangladesh’s winning percentage is 72 % at home, but away from it drops sharply to 39 %. No team has such a significant discrepancy between home and away performance as Bangladesh. It’s a matter of considerable concern for the team. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, as they dominated the tri series tournament to clinch the championship. So, if Bangladesh can maintain this form in the World Cup, anything is possible.
Round robin league: Round robin league will be employed in this World Cup. It means every team will play every other team, and the best four will go on to the knockout round. The Round robin league was first introduced in the 1992 World Cup, which was won by Pakistan. This type of tournament will be difficult for Bangladesh, as they never participated in a competition with this kind of format. Bangladesh will play 9 matches in the group stage, and there is no dead rubber game, so every match will be crucial. There is injury concern, as it will be a long tournament, and also players have to maintain their concentration in every match. So, if Bangladeshi players can stay fit and attentive throughout the tournament, they will be able to overcome this difficulty.
Lack of wrist spinner: Wrist spinner is someone who can bring variety to your bowling attack. Without Bangladesh, every other team in the World Cup would lack a wrist spinner! Rashid khan, Devendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav all are very successful. Sabbir Rahman also bowls leg spin, but so he is not as effective as those others. So, Miraz and Shakib will have to take on the responsibility, and do the job for Bangladesh.
Without question, this is best team Bangladesh have ever produced in the World Cup. They have all the elements that are required to win the competition for the first time. Granted, they have some weaknesses also, but every championship team does! So, if Bangladesh can play to their strengths and mitigate those weaknesses, then “World Champions, Bangladesh” is no wild fantasy, but could become a reality.
Image: by Huzzatul Mursalin.