The upcoming edition of ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in the United Kingdom will be Bangladesh’s first outing in this premier One-Day International (ODI) event in over a decade. Since making their debut in this tournament back in 2000 (Back then, the event was known as ICC Knockout Trophy) in Nairobi, the Tigers had featured in three more editions — in 2002, 2004 and 2006, but they failed to make any impact on each occasion.
Having won only once (Against Zimbabwe in 2006 ) out of their eight fixtures of Champions Trophy, Bangladesh are coming into the tournament with a dreadful track record and the challenge will be for this Mashrafe Mortaza-led impressive Bangladesh team to justify their place in the competition ahead of two-time World champions West Indies.
A change of scenario
In 2006, when last time Bangladesh played in Champions Trophy, they were considered as minnows in the cricketing world. However, things have changed drastically for them in these 11 years.
In past couple of years, Bangladesh in white-ball cricket have emerged as one of the most consistent performing units. The Shakibs, the Tamims, the Mushfiqurs, the Sabbirs, the Mahmudullah’s, the Mustafizurs have completely changed the face of their country’s cricket, especially in the 50-over format.
Bangladesh made their way to the quarter-finals of the last world cup in Downunder and followed it up with back to back ODI series wins against high-quality teams like Pakistan, India and South Africa. These victories provided them important ranking points which opened the door for a qualification in this Champions Trophy after 11 years.
They also made it to the final of Asia cup at home last year, which was played in T20 format. In their recent tour of Sri Lanka the Tigers once again showcased their improved stature, when they drew against the mighty hosts in all three formats.
Currently, the Bangladesh ODI team is ranked number seven in the world. Mortaza’s boys are ahead of teams like Pakistan and West Indies in the race for a direct qualification for the 2019 World Cup.
They have a settled squad and it has a nice blend of young and experienced cricketers. Most importantly, every cricketer in this camp know their individual role and they take a lot of pride in their performance on the field.
Thus, no opponent will dare to relax against this team as on a given day, they have all the potentials to beat any team in the word in any condition.
Lack of expectations, an advantage?
In the Champions Trophy, Bangladesh are placed in Group A, alongside host England, current 50-over world champions Australia and runners-up New Zealand and on the English conditions, where spinners are not expected to get much purchase from the track, they will definitely have an upper-hand against the Tigers.
The task will be stiff for Bangladesh to qualify for the semis from this group and expectations from the team will be lesser compared to other tournaments. However, this lack of expectations from fans and media can be work as an advantage for Mortaza and co. This can enable them to play more freely and express themselves on the field. Bangladesh know they have nothing to loss, so they can come up with the fearless brand of cricket — a strategy, which worked for them in the 2015 World Cup.
The big players
If Bangladesh wish to raise a few eyeballs in this tournament, their premier player, Shakib Al Hasan has to come up with some inspiring performances with both bat and ball. Shakib, a veteran of 172 ODIs, is currently rated as the top all-rounder in ICC rankings for all three formats and the team management will eyeing towards him to deliver the goods.
Opener Tamim Iqbal, who has an excellent track record in English conditions, will be another key player for them. As a cricketer, the southpaw has matured a lot from his early reputations as a reckless batsman. The sigh of relief for Bangladesh is that Iqbal is in good form. He hit a brilliant 127 against Sri Lanka in March and currently warming up in for the Champions Trophy at the triangular series in Ireland, with scores of 64*, 23 and 47 in three games. Now time has come for Tamim to convert on the big stage.
In the bowling department, a lot will depend on how Mustafizur shapes up. He has battled through injuries in the recent past year and it has had an effect on his form. But if he can get up to full fitness, Mustafizur will be a huge asset for Bangladesh because of his prowess with both the old and new ball.
A lot at stake
However, more than the result, it will be important, how Bangladesh present themselves on the field. Being competitive against top limited-overs teams like England, Australia and New Zealand in a global event will earn their cricket a lot of respect.
This can even help the Bangladesh cricket administrators to argue for more frequent bilateral fixtures against the best in the business, which this developing team needs badly.
So, quite understandably, a lot will be at stake for Bangladesh, when they will take the field at the Oval in the inaugural game of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 on June 1.
Watch out for Bangladesh! They can be one of the surprise packages of the tournament.