Bangladesh, a minnow no more

The Bangladesh team is replete with prodigious youngsters. The talent, albeit raw, should be sufficient for the team to discard its tag of ‘one-match-wonder’ in ICC competitions.

Bangladesh players celebrate following their victory against India in a bilateral ODI series in June 2015. Bangladesh, of late, has proved to be a tough competitor at home.   -  AFP

Bangladesh is the odd one out in the 2017 Champions Trophy. While the rest of the teams have at least one trophy each from major ICC events, Bangladesh has just memorable moments: a victory against a powerful Pakistani side in the 1999 World Cup; spoiling India’s chances in the 2007 World Cup; knocking England out of the 2015 World Cup; almost knocking India out of the 2016 World T20.

ICC Champions Trophy schedule

In major ICC tournaments, Bangladesh is seen as a team that is only capable of pulling off a few upsets; a team that — as if by law of nature — is supposed to lose to higher-ranked teams; a team that is a perennial minnow.

Well, that isn’t how Bangladesh is any more.

Post 2015 World Cup, Bangladesh has been renovating its legacy. It built an ODI fortress at home — a fortress that several teams, including powerhouses, have failed to conquer. For the first time, it beat India in a bilateral series. It repeated the feat against South Africa. It whitewashed Pakistan. In five straight series, Bangladesh was unstoppable. Then England, with a 2-1 win, finally halted Bangladesh’s march at home in October last year.

But a greater achievement awaited Bangladesh a few days later. Mehedi Hasan Miraz, an off-spinner all of 19 years with a touch of mystery, helped Bangladesh to a series-levelling Test win, also its first, against England. It was the victory of a 16-year-old Test nation against the founders of a game that has been played for centuries. It was a triumph of the minnows over the masters. It was Bangladesh’s coming of age in cricket.

Mortaza: Only big teams feel nervous

However, as Bangladesh travels to England to participate in a tournament that was born in its backyard, it will not be inebriated with confidence. It is coming from a 3-0 defeat in New Zealand and a drawn series in Sri Lanka. Bangladesh knows it hasn’t beaten the world yet. It should know it can. If not, its pragmatic-yet-determined coach Chandika Hathurusingha will remind it. When the Bangladesh players celebrated for over half an hour after winning the first game in the 2015 World Cup against Afghanistan, Hathurusingha reminded them that they have just started the climb and the peak is still a long way up.

“The way you are celebrating, it seems you all have come to win just this match,” he told the team. “If that’s the case, it’s very sad.”

It spurred the Bangladesh players to dream bigger, to realise their potential, to prove their worth. The way Bangladesh shaped up after the 2015 World Cup has a lot to do with this man and those words.

But the challenges Bangladesh will face in England will be paramount and intense. The English sun, coach Hathurusingha hopes, will smile at them. But he is preparing his team for uncongenial, nippy conditions. The comfort of playing smaller teams will be absent too, for the Champions Trophy is an event for elite club of achievers.

Mashrafe Mortaza, at 33, might not have plenty of overs left in him, but is a shrewd bowler and an inspiring leader. His side is littered with prodigious youngsters like Mustafizur Rahman, Soumya Sarkar, Mehedi Hasan among others. It has Shakib Al Hasan, the world’s No. 1 all-rounder. Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah are able finishers. The talent, albeit raw, should be sufficient for Bangladesh to discard its tag of ‘one-match-wonder’ in ICC competitions.

This time, Bangladesh won’t be content with an upset. This time, there’s promise. This time, it will aim to provide joy to its fans and prove itself and others of its abilities. This time, it is not a minnow.

The squad

Mashrafe Mortaza (Captain), Imrul Kayes, Mahmudullah, Mehedi Hasan, Mosaddek Hossain, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Shafiul Islam, Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar, Sunzamul Islam, Tamim Iqbal and Taskin Ahmed.