Team Bangladesh preview: A great World Cup script in the making

It is a coincidence that the nation’s cricket story will return to the place where it all started in 1999.

Bangladesh paceman Rubel Hossain (left) and captain Mashrafe Mortaza (middle) should play key roles in their team’s World Cup campaign.   -  AFP

It is often heard that cricketers search for home food on away tours to switch on their inner demons. It helps them think and plot the game better.

Bangladesh will open its ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 campaign on June 2 against South Africa at the Oval, Kennington. Barely 30 minutes from the venue lie Shaad and Kolapata, two highly rated restaurants that serve Bangladeshi cuisine.

The cricket team is all set to complete 20 years in the World Cup sphere and one of these eateries could well be a celebration venue.

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It is a coincidence that the nation’s cricket story will return to the place where it all started in 1999. Under Aminul Islam, the 62-run victory against Pakistan in Northampton is listed as one of the greatest among the country’s achievements. Those days, picking a squad was easier as there weren’t as many superstars.

Bangladesh started grooming a set of players in 2007. They form the core of the World Cup 2019 squad. Some seniors will appear for their fourth World Cup; as a result, there is an impact player in every department.

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The core group

Bangladesh’s leading run-getter in ODI cricket, Tamim Iqbal, provides security at the top of the order. The left-hander, good on his feet and in judgement, is the best bet to tackle the early jitters in swinging conditions.

A knee surgery had dampened his spirits in the trans-Tasman World Cup four years ago. Tamim had scored only 154 runs in six games. This time, he is better prepared to make amends.

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Soumya Sarkar balances the combination and even with the ball, his medium pace can be effective while the dark clouds play hide and seek.

Shakib Al Hasan — Bangladesh’s top run-getter in World Cups (540 runs in 21 games at an average of 30.00) — balances the middle order. A finger injury had taken the vice-captain out of office for sometime. He returned to action in the Indian Premier League for Sunrisers Hyderabad, before joining the national side for the tri-nation series in Ireland.

Slow left-arm spinner Shakib is also his side’s leading wicket-taker (23) in the tournament. He will share spin duties with Mehidy Hasan.

The secret to wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim’s longevity is his evolution as an all-format batsman. He is a legend in that part of the world for the unorthodox play and supreme fitness. The master of more than 200 dismissals (catches and stumpings) in One-Day International cricket could be the crisis man for Bangladesh in the build-up overs (25 to 40). At the death, he can use his 360-degree shots.

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Rahim is a pressure-handler. The 77-ball 89 against England in the last World Cup is a strong reference point to his talent.

What holds strange for Bangladesh is that none of these players have a World Cup hundred.

Mahmudullah, who has only played 10 World Cup games, has two hundreds; against England (in a winning cause) and New Zealand to emerge as a threat in 2015. From No. 4 to No. 7, Mahmudullah can swing his willow in any position. Bonus: he also bowls off-spin.

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The pace batteries

Bangladesh harnessed a bunch of young pace machines to add firepower to its bowling department. The aggression has been felt through the send-offs and chest-bump celebrations.

Though not great with pace, skipper Mashrafe Mortaza’s variations and movement will hold him in good stead as he checks in for his fifth World Cup.

He will garner support from Rubel Hossain — a big-match player who can get the big guns. He has got Virat Kohli a couple of times, too.

With 13 wickets in 12 World Cup games, Rubel is a force to reckon with. But looking at the conditions, all eyes will be on left-armer Mustafizur Rahman provided he doesn’t pick up an injury. Known for bowling cutters, slower deliveries with a tinge of reverse swing, Mustafizur can prove deadly.

Taskin Ahmed could be a wild card entry as he gains rhythm after nursing an ankle injury.

Bangladesh’s cricket story is a great script in the making. You just need the right characters to deliver in crunch situations; also, the right kind of food. You can’t keep the Bengalis away from their daily dose of fish and meat.