To most of us here in Australia Bangladesh are a tiny country, the smallest of the four subcontinental teams, behind India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and perhaps on par with Afghanistan, but to Bangladesh themselves, they are so much bigger than that.
Like most of the countries in the subcontinent, Bangladesh are cricket mad, but their form of cricket madness is a little bit different to in the other countries in their region, for Bangladesh cricket fans believe that Bangladesh are the best cricket players in the entire world, and if they ever lose anything then they are sure that there is a conspiracy against them.
This was evident in the 2015 World Cup when they shocked the world by beating England to qualify for the quarter finals, but, rather than celebrating the unexpected achievement, fans instead protested about corruption when India beat them, with the ICC chief, who was from Bangladesh, resigning in protest at the loss.
In fairness, that was a poorly umpired game, with no less than 4 critical umpiring errors going against Bangladesh, errors which potentially could have led to a Bangladesh victory, but to suggest that that made it a conspiracy was somewhat far-fetched.
Following the 2015 World Cup, Bangladesh really turned it on, beating India, Pakistan, South Africa and ultimately Australia, all in Bangladesh, with their win against Australia being in a test match.
As a result of all of that, Bangladesh enters this World Cup without needing to qualify, due to their ranking being in the top 8. While former champions West Indies and up and coming Afghanistan had to fight hard through a very tough qualifying tournament, Bangladesh had already qualified without it. While fellow test teams Zimbabwe and Ireland aren’t in the World Cup at all, and Scotland were desperately unlucky not to make it, Bangladesh are there easily.
SThe squad includes many of Bangladesh’s big stars, with their star all-rounder and best player Shakib al Hasan being given the vice-captaincy, with stalwards Mashrafe Mortaza, Tamim Iqbal , Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim and newcomer Mustafizur Rahman giving oppositions something to worry about. But therein lies the problem, for outside of those five or so top players, they really struggle, with batting and bowling alike. There are fast bowlers like Rubel Hossain who seem incapable of taking wickets and often only bowl 2 or 3 overs while batting at 10 or 11, there are batsmen who don’t bowl but often bat at 8 or 9 and wicket keepers who can’t keep.
The other problem for Bangladesh is that none of the other teams in this World Cup are teams that Bangladesh will be confident against, at least not in England.
Bangladesh are a team who do well at home, but their strength diminishes significantly away from home. West Indies, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have all been outplaying Bangladesh away from home lately, and as for the top 6 it seems likely that Bangladesh will lose badly to all of them.
While Bangladesh might hope for a big upset win, as they managed in 2007, without the incentive of one big win leading to a knockout stage, it is hard to imagine them lifting for even that one. They probably need to win 6 matches out of 9 to qualify for the semi-finals and that seems to be far too much for even the eternal optimists that are Bangladesh cricket fans to hope for.
Five Fearless Predictions:
(1) Shakib al Hasan will be Bangladesh’s best player – Shakib is as good as he ever has been and the likelihood that anyone else will step up seems slim to none.
(2) Mustafizur Rahman will be Bangladesh’s best bowler – English conditions are likely to suit the young quick, and, assuming he can stay fit, we can expect him to take some wickets. Just a pity that he doesn’t have much backup.
(3) Tamim Iqbal will be Bangladesh’s best batsman – He is coming back into some good form and with all of his experience expect him to carry the innings, maybe even batting right to the end in a match or two, or going close to it.
(4) Bangladesh won’t pass 300 – They have always struggled to score quickly enough in ODIs and in this competition in tough batting conditions they might not even pass 250 and I can’t see them coming close to 300. They might be all out for 200 or less a lot.
(5) Bangladesh won’t win a match – It sounds tough, given how well they did in the 2015 World Cup and soon afterwards, but the teams that qualified and just their dip in form lately tells me that they are not going to win a match. Afghanistan and West Indies are too strong and, while they do have a chance of beating Sri Lanka, I don’t think it will happen. Someone has to finish last, and it looks like it will be Bangladesh. A lot of their matches will probably be very one-sided too.
Best opponents: Sri Lanka, Afghanistan
Worst opponents: Australia, India
Predicted finish: Last, 0-9 record, 10th out of 10