Precisely in October 2008, some of the top players of the country defected to the Indian Cricket League (ICL), throwing the game into disarray. Habibul Bashar, Dhiman Ghosh, Shahriar Nafees and Aftab Ahmed were some of the top names who went to play in the rebel tournament, only to return a year later.
Junaid Siddiqui, Naeem Islam, Roqibul Hasan, who had only entered international cricket only a few months ago, were given responsibilities that should’ve been the job of men like Bashar and Nafees. But they stepped up and along with the ever-improving Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal and the experienced Mashrafe Mortaza, the Tigers slowly began to make progress.
The first signs were during a home tri-series that involved Sri Lanka, beating them once and then scaring the visitors in the final only to lose the game to the bat (!) of Muttiah Muralitharan.
So the bedrocks were (somewhat) set and the Tigers began to move on to greater things including a Test and ODI series win in West Indies (despite the much weakened hosts) and a 4-0 whitewash late last year of New Zealand, Bangladesh’s first major win.
The make-up of the current squad is a familiar one with more batsman than bowlers and of course, spinners. Apart from a settled opening pair – Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes – the Tigers have a good spin attack with the top ranked all-rounder in the world amongst them. Naeem Islam and Mahmudullah Riyad would provide off-spin options along with Shakib Al Hasan’s and Abdur Razzak’s accurate left-arm spin. Add to that the variety of Sohrawardi Shuvo, the Tigers have a fine spin attack. The absence of Mashrafe is really the only blemish in the side but in Rubel Hossain, Shafiul Islam and Nazmul Hossain, the Tigers have a decent seam attack.
Shakib, Tamim, Imrul, Rubel, Shafiul, Razzak, Mushfiqur Rahim (wicketkeeper) and Naeem Islam are automatic choices as there a few question marks on the position of Junead and Rokibul, with the likes of Nafees and Mohammad Ashraful added in the 15-man squad.
The playing eleven for the first game therefore looks quite settled with the spin-batsman combination being their strength.
The schedule of the tournament for Bangladesh, a gap of almost a week before every game except one, will be helpful. If they are winning games, it will add to the frenzy somewhat but if they lose, they have enough time to bounce back.
In spite of the balanced and settled team and the advantage of home conditions as well as the schedule, the Tigers are in a tough group that has India, South Africa and England. They must target wins against Netherlands, Ireland and West Indies to progress into the next round and if they are lucky enough in the quarterfinal, a semifinal place is not very unlikely.
Bangladesh has to be calm under the pressure of playing at home and at the same time, they need their big guns to fire. Tamim and Shakib must be at the top of their game with the latter’s performance hinging on the rest of the team’s mental state. Shakib leads by example and he must deliver.
If Bangladesh doesn’t go through, the semifinals spots are almost confirmed for India, Australia, England and Pakistan.
Preview by Mohammad Isam