The popularity of cricket started to grow rapidly in Bangladesh following India’s triumph in the 1983 World Cup.
This Saturday in Cardiff, the Tigers will take on the pre-tournament favourites England in an important fixture.
It’s the wounded Lions against the wounded Tigers as both teams seek to recover from defeats. The English found out against Pakistan that it’s not always possible to chase 350 scores, even for their formidable batting line up.
As for the Tigers, they lacked enough match wining performances in the match against New Zealand.
Here, I would like to pinpoint the things the Tigers need to get right if they want to upset the hosts.
The openers need to build on their starts. In the opening fixture against South Africa they put on 60, against New Zealand they shared a 45 run stand. Both decent starts, but not enough to put pressure on the opposition. The worst part is – on both occasions – they followed one another back to the pavilion.
In the Proteas match, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim bailed them out with a 140-run stand but it can’t happen every time. The openers need to show their ability to play real big innings.
26-year-old Soumya Sarkar is, without doubt, the most natural stroke-maker in the Bangladesh team. At his best he reminds me of David Gower – especially when he drives through the offside.
His ODI average of 36.52 isn’t too bad, his strike rate is 100.72. But only two hundreds in 45 innings isn’t good enough. His first ton came more than four years ago against Pakistan, while his other hundred is against Zimbabwe – a team that has failed to make it to the World Cup.
Overall, his record doesn’t do justice to his enormous talents. Too many soft dismissals have hampered his career. The latest of these came against the Kiwis. After scoring 25 runs effortlessly, he attempted to play across the line against the fast bowler Matt Henry and was comprehensively bowled.
He has come to World Cup on the back of three successive 50’s against the West Indies but, so far, he has frustrated Tigers fans in the main event.
His partner, Tamim Iqbal, has looked surprisingly subdued in the World Cup so far. There were injury doubts him before the event and I am not sure he is fully fit. He doesn’t seem to enjoy the game in his usual way.
Of course, his role in the side is different from that of Soumya. With stroke-makers Soumya opening and Shakib at No.3, Tamim is expected to play the long innings – he is allowed to take his time if necessary.
So far, he has failed in his role. He did score a cracking hundred against England a couple of years back in the Champions Trophy and Tigers fans would love something similar on Saturday. At least one of Bangladesh’s openers need to perform at Cardiff.
Bangladesh needs to play Moeen Ali in a planned manner. In the loss against the Black Caps, while the openers perished against the new ball bowlers, the middle order struggled against gentle medium pace of Colin de Grandhomme and the left arm spin of Mitchell Santer.
One got the impression that Bangladesh didn’t have a plan to tackle them. Both bowled accurately and more importantly, very slowly. Players like Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah – who like to use bowlers’ pace – struggled badly against them.
Santner didn’t turn the ball too much, but still finished with the impressive figures of 10-1-41-1. Together, he and De Grandhomme, stifled their progress in the middle overs before the faster bowlers returned to clean off the tail.
I expect Ali to try similar tactics. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe Root bowl a few overs of gentle off spin as well. Again, the idea would be to bowl slow, but this time Bangladesh need to be ready. Rather than trying to play forceful drives down the ground all the time, they should use the sweep shot (both conventional and reverse) more often.
I have ignored Adil Rashid because I expect him to be dropped for the Bangladesh game. So far, he has looked the weakling in the England bowling attack with batsmen scoring freely against his leg spin. His only wicket in the event has come courtesy of Ben Stokes’ extraordinary brilliance in the field.
I expect England to play both Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett in a bid to take advantage of some Bangladeshi batsmen’s weakness against the short pitch bowling.
If he does play, Adil should be attacked in a planned way. He is the sort of bowler who is always likely to bowl one bad delivery each over. The Tigers need to take full advantage if presented with such gifts.
The lower order needs to show more resilience. A day after the Tigers’ loss, Australia defeated the West Indies in a close finish simply because they had a long batting line up.
On paper, Bangladesh also have a long batting line up with Mehedi Hasan Miraz coming at No.9 and Mashrafe Mortaza at 10. But against New Zealand, when the situation demanded contribution from the lower order, they failed – struggling badly against the pace of Henry.
Only, Mohammed Saifuddin with a 23-ball 29 seemed aware of his responsibilities. Support from others could have taken the score to around the 270 mark, which would have made the contest more even.
To me, all-rounder Mosaddek Hossain was the biggest disappointment. After an eyesight problem briefly threatened his career couple of years back, he has done extremely well to get himself back in to the national team. Normally, a free-flowing batsman, he seemed surprisingly cautious in his shot selection and ended up scoring 11 from 22 deliveries in the slog overs.
Watching him bat, I felt that he was playing for his place in the side with Sabbir Rahman a possible replacement for the No.7 slot.
Now, I am a big fan of Sabbir, but he had enough chances and mostly wasted them despite having all the shots in the book. The team management should encourage Mosaddek to feel more secured and play his natural game. A good bowling display with his off spins late in the match against New Zealand should come as a big boost to his confidence.
I have totally focused on the batting here. The bowling hasn’t been too bad, nor it has been brilliant. Right now this is as good as Bangladesh have got in the bowling department.
For most working people in Bangladesh, Saturday would mark the end of their Eid holidays with Sunday being a working day here.
A Tigers victory would be a nice end to the short vacation for them. The odds are firmly in favour of the home side with their overall strength, but Cardiff has traditionally been a lucky ground for the Tigers. England would do well to take nothing for granted.