When Bangladesh last time featured in the ICC Champions Trophy back in 2006 in India, they were still being regarded as one of the minnows in the cricketing world. However, after a gap of eleven years, as the Tigers gear up to make a comeback to this elite event, the scenario has changed completely.
Currently, ranked number six in the ICC One-Day International (ODI) rankings, Bangladesh are arguably the second best Asian team in limited-overs format after India at this point of time. In past two years, they have touched quite a few milestones in all three formats and the confidence level, which the players have achieved through their performances, is the biggest asset of this Bangladesh team, feels their ODI skipper Mashrafe Mortaza.
“We are ranked sixth, it is a pleasure for us, and the team is very happy with that. We want to move on from here and want to go as far as we can in the world,” the Bangladesh captain said in his pre-tournament press meet in Birmingham on Friday.
“This tournament is going to be hard for us, playing a group that is very hard in the conditions, but on your day, you can do anything, we have quality players who can change the game. We’ll have to play as a team as we have been doing so far,” he added further.
The Tigers have been in the United Kingdom for almost a month now, preparing for the Champions Trophy. Recently, they featured in a tri-series in Ireland against the hosts and New Zealand and managed to remain unbeaten three out of their four encounters.
Mortaza believes the preparation has given the boys the self-belief that the team is well capable of outclassing teams like host England, current world champions Australia and last world cup finalist New Zealand in the Champions Trophy.
However, he is under no illusion about the challenge that lies ahead, particularly with the unfamiliar conditions in front of his team at The Oval and the Cardiff Wales Stadium.
“There are expectations, once you play for your country there is always pressure. I think in this tournament, it is not going to be easy, so we have to concentrate on our own game. We want to play the way we have played over the past two years and execute our skills well.”
This tournament will provide the Tigers the perfect platform to showcase the massive improvement they have in recent years and the challenge will begin on the inaugural day of the event, on June 1, when they will take a rejuvenated England team, who has been some exceptional white-ball cricket under Eoin Morgan since the dismal show in the last World Cup in Australia-New Zealand.
However, Bangladesh too has shown itself to be no pushover in global tournaments, beating England at the 2011 and 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup league games. Last time, by beating their English counterparts, Bangladesh reached the knockout stages for the first time.
Mortaza meanwhile prefers to concentrate on the future assignments, rather than the past records. He believes, on a brand new day, his boys have to at their best to achieve the right result.
“It is two and half years since the last ICC competition, victories there can help you but for me, it does not because it is a new day, a new match.
If you want to do something, this is your day to make it. If we want to do that then this is your day, go ahead and do it. Whenever we have played them, Pakistan has been the bigger side, and in this sort of tournament, any big side is under pressure.
“It [Bangladesh] is a very good side that can destroy any team, so it has a very big chance in the competition.”
However, despite showing lots of improvement in the batting and bowling departments in recent times, Bangladesh skipper mentioned Bangladesh have to improve its levels in the field.
“On your bad day, you have to concentrate on everything,” explained Mortaza. “In the last match [Against New Zealand in Ireland] we dropped four catches, and that could not happen on the bigger stage. We hope our fielding will go alright as well as batting and bowling.
Finally talking about his bowling department, the skipper identified left-armer Mustafizur Rahman as a key to Bangladesh’s fortunes. However, he also mentioned that this team does not depend on any one individual.
“We’re not concerned about being reliant on one bowler but Mustafizur has done a really good job for us over the past few years. He has come back very strongly after his operation and he’ll take a big role for us.”
In the history of Champions Trophy so far, Bangladesh have won only one out of their eight encounters. Now time has come for this team to settle the scores.
Will they be able to do it? Well, only time will tell.
Courtesy: ICC Media