It might shock many keyboard warriors to note that, on the day the tournament began, Bangladesh were officially ninth favourites to win the tournament, at odds of 3,333 to 1. Only Afghanistan were supported less. They were also only ranked eighth, but ninth ranked Sri Lanka were given more of a chance of winning the tournament, perhaps due to the fact that they had won in 1996.
Bangladesh pumped up their own chances, suggesting that, had the umpiring been better in 2015, they may well have made the semi-finals. Also noting how they briefly reached a ranking of sixth in 2016 thanks to a series of wins at home in Bangladesh. But nobody honestly expected them to win the whole thing, and the thought of making the semi-finals seemed preposterously unlikely.
The top three was expected to be England, India and Australia, with 4th spot being a logjam between South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies and Pakistan. Bangladesh were not in discussions. Even their most optimistic supporters didn’t seriously suggest that they could make it, lest they be ridiculed. And yet, from the moment they shocked South Africa until they were eliminated by India in their second last match, they were talked about as a genuine chance to make the semi-finals.
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Shakib al Hasan was not only Bangladesh’s best player but is the outright favourite to win the player of the tournament award. While leading wicket taker Mitchell Starc and leading run scorer Rohit Sharma may yet pip him, Shakib has been so good that he has won the man of the match award in all three of Bangladesh’s wins, and has been pretty close to that in all but 2 of their losses too, with his lowest score being 41 and he has 10 wickets on top of that. It’s fair to say that, if he had played to his normal level, Bangladesh would have lost to South Africa and West Indies, and may have lost to Afghanistan as well.
Mushfiqur Rahim also had a tournament to remember, acting like a great foil to Shakib, especially in the match against South Africa. Mustafizur Rahman had a great match against India too.
Winning three matches is not a big deal, as they did that in 2015 and 2011 too, and, all up, did it in 2007 as well, but the issue was not so much how many wins they had or who they beat so much as the belief they had. They were seriously talked about as making the semi-finals, something that nobody mentioned in previous tournaments.
All of the furore in the 2007 World Cup, which led to the 2019 edition involving just 10 teams, was due to Bangladesh beating India to knock them out of the tournament (and, to a lesser extent, due to Ireland knocking Pakistan out too) at the group stages. They made it so that only 8 teams automatically qualified, and Bangladesh were not supposed to be one of them – except that they were. Bangladesh were meant to be knocked out by the likes of Afghanistan, Scotland and Ireland in the World Cup Qualifier stages, but instead they came here without needing to qualify, as they reached their highest ever ODI ranking of sixth.
Perhaps most notably was the way they were treated. In every other World Cup they were viewed poorly, as minnows, as a team that didn’t belong, a reference to their gaining Test status based on winning a solitary dead rubber match against Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup, yet here people were claiming that their upsets weren’t upsets. It was like India after their shock 1983 World Cup win, when suddenly everyone in India thought that they were the best team in the world. While Bangladesh are a long way from winning the World Cup, they sure did make the right noises.
For the eighth ranked team and ninth favourites to even briefly be in serious talk about being in the semi-finals is enormous. While they may yet finish eighth, that doesn’t matter too much, as their PR was incredible, and Shakib al Hasan should win the player of the tournament award.
They finally completely discarded the minnow tag, so much so that people from all over the world were getting angry at the claim that their upset win over South Africa was an upset.