Captain Mortaza calls on Tigers to ‘change perceptions’ as best-ever Bangladesh team gear up for Cricket World Cup
Unfancied Bangladesh are not expected to make a big impact on the 2019 Cricket World Cup, but the Tigers have proved time and again they should not be written off.
Only Afghanistan are rated as bigger outsiders by the bookmakers, which seems unfair on Bangladesh considering they sit above West Indies and Sri Lanka in the world rankings too.
Twenty years on from their World Cup debut, in England, during which they won two group games, they remain a team capable of big results on their day.
Bangladesh beat England in 2011 and 2015, while India and South Africa were among their scalps in the previous tournament before that.
In more recent times, they reached the 2018 Asia Cup final – only losing off the final ball to India – having beaten Sri Lanka and Pakistan along the way.
In Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, still the two most iconic cricketers in the country, Bangladesh boast two of the leading ODI players in world cricket too.
Tamim has been one of the world’s leading ODI batsman over the last four years and Shakib is ranked as the second-best all-rounder in ODI cricket.
The Tigers, therefore, should not be discounted but, with a best finish of seventh at the World Cup, can they be more than a foot-note at this year’s tournament?
Key player: Shakib Al Hasan
Now 32, Shakib Al Hasan is still one of the leading all-rounders in ODI cricket and one of Bangladesh’s most iconic players.
Sat second in the world behind only Rashid Khan in the ICC’s ODI all-rounder rankings, Shakib is closing in on 200 matches in the format. In that time, he has amassed more than 5,600 runs and headed into the Tri-Nation Series in Ireland with 247 wickets.
In all formats of the game, he has achieved the all-rounder’s magic ratio of a comfortably higher batting average than bowling average, and he has made his mark across the globe.
Through being made captain and then later dropped, mixed with off-field misdemeanours in the early part of this decade, Shakib’s match-winning ability has never waned.
Even after a frustrating IPL, where the form of Sunrisers Hyderabad’s other overseas stars restricted his chances, Shakib bounced straight back to top form once he linked back up with the national team.
He started the tour of Ireland with back-to-back half-centuries – and a wicket in each of his first two games – to show he is right back to his best.
And if you need any more evidence of his capabilities, you only have to look at the Bangladesh Premier League at the start of this year. Shakib took 23 wickets and scored 300 runs in 15 matches, as he led Dhaka Dynamites to the final.
Others to watch
Big-hitting opening batsman Tamim Iqbal has played such a key role in Bangladesh’s rise that it is hard to believe he only turned 30 in March.
The left-handed batsman has excelled in all three formats of the international game, including hitting 45 half-centuries and passing 100 on eleven occasions in 188 ODI innings.
His latest half-century helped Bangladesh beat West Indies at the start of the Ireland Tri-Nation Series and was an important return to form in ODIs.
Previously, he hit 278 runs in the test series with New Zealand, while his match-winning ability was laid bare when he hammered 141 not out in the Bangladesh Premier League final.
Since the last World Cup, Tamim averages more than 60 in ODI cricket – among the world’s best over the last four years.
Experienced wicket-keeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim set the tone for Bangladesh by hitting 144 from 150 balls in their opening win against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup – proving once again he is a man for big occasions.
He then came within one run of adding his second century of the tournament when Bangladesh beat Pakistan to qualify for the final – scoring 99 from 116 balls.
In all, he has six ODI centuries and 32 half-centuries, and played his 200th game in the format in the recent series with New Zealand.
There were questions over his fitness ahead of the World Cup, but he has recovered in time to be a key figure in the Bangladesh middle-order.
Mashrafe Mortaza’s pace has slowed in the 18 years since he burst onto the scene as a teenager, but his importance to the Bangladesh bowling attack remains.
The 35-year-old is playing at his last World Cup and, indeed, his election as an MP might mean this is his last action in top-tier cricket of any kind.
He will sign off as one of Bangladesh’s foremost players of the last two decades – particularly in ODIs, where he has 262 wickets in 206 matches.
Mortaza has called on the Bangladesh team to change the public perception of them at the World Cup – his cool exterior helping to keep the pressure off his team-mates.
He is the leader of what is arguably Bangladesh’s finest ever team – and his legacy could sky-rocket if he can sign off by helping them make an impression on this tournament.
Bangladesh squad for ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
|Mashrafe Mortaza (c)||35||Bowler (RM)|
|Shakib Al Hasan||32||All-rounder (SLA)|
|Mehedi Hasan Miraz||22||All-rounder (OS)|
|Soumya Sarkar||26||All-rounder (RMF)|
|Rubel Hossain||29||Bowler (RMF)|
|Mohammad Saifuddin||22||All-rounder (OS)|
|Mosaddek Hossain||23||All-rounder (OS)|
|Mustafizur Rahman||23||Bowler (LFM)|
|Abu Jayed||25||Bowler (RFM)|
June 8 – Bangladesh vs England (Sophia Gardens, Cardiff)
Bangladesh have beaten England at the last two Cricket World Cups. The Tigers won by two wickets, chasing 226, on home soil in 2011 and, last time out, booked their quarter-final place by defending 275/7 in a 15-run win in Adelaide.
The hosts have had the upper hand more recently, including their eight-wicket win in the group stage of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, but this is another potential banana-skin for England.
On paper, England should win – but Bangladesh have claimed scalps against the big teams on plenty of occasions before.
Bangladesh Cricket World Cup 2019 fixtures
|June 2||South Africa||The Oval, London|
|June 5 (D/N)||New Zealand||The Oval, London|
|June 8||England||Sophia Gardens, Cardiff|
|June 11||Sri Lanka||County Ground, Bristol|
|June 17||West Indies||County Ground, Taunton|
|June 20||Australia||Trent Bridge, Nottingham|
|June 24||Afghanistan||Rose Bowl, Southampton|
|July 2||India||Edgbaston, Birmingham|
|July 5||Pakistan||Lord’s, London|
Happy to avoid
While their World Cup warm-up fixtures have included a tri-series on the Emerald Isle, Bangladesh will be glad Ireland are not at the World Cup.
The Irish stunned Bangladesh back in the 2007 tournament, with two of their heroes of that 74-run win in Bridgetown – William Porterfield and Kevin O’Brien – still very much at the forefront of the current Irish set-up.
With a pair of series victories, home and away, against West Indies, either side of reaching the Asia Cup final, Bangladesh looked to be in good shape ahead of this World Cup. They also whitewashed Zimbabwe in that period but suffered a 3-0 defeat to New Zealand in February – bowled out in all three matches.
There were some positive signs more recently, however, at the Ireland Tri-Nation Series – the Tigers beat West Indies by eight wickets after a dominant batting display in Dublin in their first game.
Bangladesh have climbed to seventh in the ICC ODI Team Rankings and are in better form than the likes of Sri Lanka below them.
By reaching the Asia Cup final last year, they showed once again they can compete with the big teams. England will be wary, after losing to the Tigers at the last two World Cups, while India, South Africa and Pakistan have all suffered World Cup defeats to Bangladesh too.
Bangladesh are capable of finishing towards the middle of the group, but their lack of consistency – and the strength of their rivals – means a semi-final place looks unlikely.