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Can Bangladesh, defeat its worst enemy, namely itself, to win the World T20 Cup? Either Bangladesh will crash out of the World Cup at first opportunity or pull out the greatest miracle of the century by stealing the cup. Which will it be? Zeeshan previews.

Can Bangladesh defeat Bangladesh?

Published: 18th September, 2012

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It is said that on a trip to Rome in 155 BC, a philosopher argued for and against justice on two successive days. On the first day he defended it; on the second day, he attacked the same views with equal swiftness. With apologies to Carneades, in a similar vein I present two cases: one of triumph and the other of tragedy.

Case A: World defeats Bangladesh

Let's start with the most likely tragicomico scenario. Who of all, could possibly foresee that after demolishing a club team like Trinidad & Tobago, at 12/5 and a winning target of 124 runs , Bangladesh would go on to shoot themselves in the foot? Oh that's right. Bangladeshi fans can. Far too often we have seen the Tigers choke: the Asia Cup, 6/5, Zimbabwe-last ball six...the litany continues. 

While it is true that T20 rankings fluctuate more than the buffer signal during the broadcast of a match, we can build around it to get a rough picture. Currently South Africa is rated as the #1 T20 team with 956 points. Closely followed by England, but with 984 points. But Bangladesh is also ahead of Australia, with a single, sliver of a point. And this is the same Australia which carries the number of World Record ODI sixes, off the bat of Shane Watson.

Although the rating is to be distrusted, it is no coincidence that South Africa, currently the ranked Test team in the world, boasting equally rated Hashim Amla, is at the top of the totem. England follows closely. Simply transpose these two teams and you get the order for the leading teams in ODI rankings. Pakistan, one of the thrilling teams in T20, came as runner up against perennial rival India, when the tournament was first launched in South Africa in 2007/08. Three years later, England took the laurels in the West Indies. Nevertheless, Pakistan lives up to the thrill in the numbers game as well. Out of 54 matches, they have won 34, with a Win/Loss ratio of 1.54. Sort by W/L ratio, and South Africa swaps place with Pakistan as the leader.

Team Span Mat Won Lost Tied NR W/L  Ave RPO HS LS
South Africa 2005-2012 47 30 16 0 1 1.87 25.12 7.92 241 114
Pakistan 2006-2012 58 34 22 2 0 1.54 21.71 7.35 203 74
Netherlands 2008-2012 16 9 6 0 1 1.50 19.35 6.83 169 86
Sri Lanka 2006-2012 41 24 17 0 0 1.41 22.37 7.69 260 87
Ireland 2008-2012 28 15 11 0 2 1.36 19.43 6.78 172 68
England 2005-2012 48 25 20 0 3 1.25 23.88 7.84 202 88
Afghanistan 2010-2012 11 6 5 0 0 1.20 18.73 6.94 174 80
Australia 2005-2012 52 26 23 2 1 1.13 24.24 8.15 221 79
India 2006-2012 36 18 16 1 1 1.12 26.45 7.99 218 74
New Zealand 2005-2012 53 25 25 3 0 1.00 21.83 7.72 214 80
West Indies 2006-2012 38 16 20 2 0 0.80 21.49 7.60 209 101
Bangladesh 2006-2012 24 8 16 0 0 0.50 16.65 7.03 190 78
Scotland 2007-2012 17 5 11 0 1 0.45 16.83 6.59 178 81
Kenya 2007-2012 17 4 13 0 0 0.30 15.00 6.01 164 67
Canada 2008-2012 15 3 11 1 0 0.27 15.56 6.21 176 75
Zimbabwe 2006-2012 20 3 16 1 0 0.18 18.59 7.15 200 84
Bermuda 2008-2008 3 0 3 0 0 0.00 8.40 4.28 99 70

(Sorted by W/L ratio) (Table and links from ESPNCricinfo)

I am of course no prophet, but the overall statistical tinkering does give a rough idea of who NOT to expect as the winner. Yes, points and ratings may fluctuate. Yes, BPL had it's charm on Bangladesh to catapult it to a near-hit scenario in the Asia Cup. And yes, I am also aware of Tamim Iqbal being in supreme touch with a Wayama United 93*, preceded by two consecutive fifties and of more recent times, some brisk 30s. 

And this brings to my next point: Average and Strike Rate. While it takes a certain consistency to keep up a winning tempo and steamroll whoever may come, the fact that when one sorts the same data by team average, it gives a frightful appearance. Bangladesh is not only shockingly below Australia with a paltry 16.65, but associates like Afghanistan, Netherlands and Ireland, all fare well above Bangladesh. 

Team Span Mat Won Lost Tied NR W/L Ave RPO HS LS
India 2006-2012 36 18 16 1 1 1.12 26.45 7.99 218 74
South Africa 2005-2012 47 30 16 0 1 1.87 25.12 7.92 241 114
Australia 2005-2012 52 26 23 2 1 1.13 24.24 8.15 221 79
England 2005-2012 48 25 20 0 3 1.25 23.88 7.84 202 88
Sri Lanka 2006-2012 41 24 17 0 0 1.41 22.37 7.69 260 87
New Zealand 2005-2012 53 25 25 3 0 1.00 21.83 7.72 214 80
Pakistan 2006-2012 58 34 22 2 0 1.54 21.71 7.35 203 74
West Indies 2006-2012 38 16 20 2 0 0.80 21.49 7.60 209 101
Ireland 2008-2012 28 15 11 0 2 1.36 19.43 6.78 172 68
Netherlands 2008-2012 16 9 6 0 1 1.50 19.35 6.83 169 86
Afghanistan 2010-2012 11 6 5 0 0 1.20 18.73 6.94 174 80
Zimbabwe 2006-2012 20 3 16 1 0 0.18 18.59 7.15 200 84
Scotland 2007-2012 17 5 11 0 1 0.45 16.83 6.59 178 81
Bangladesh 2006-2012 24 8 16 0 0 0.50 16.65 7.03 190 78
Canada 2008-2012 15 3 11 1 0 0.27 15.56 6.21 176 75
Kenya 2007-2012 17 4 13 0 0 0.30 15.00 6.01 164 67
Bermuda 2008-2008 3 0 3 0 0 0.00 8.40 4.28 99 70

(sorted by Average) (Table and links from ESPNCricinfo)

How about Strike Rates? 

Team Players Span Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR  100 50 0 4s 6s
Australia 59 2005-2012 52 417 90 7608 98* 23.26 5863 129.76 0 35 36 602 306
India 43 2006-2012 36 262 62 4995 101 24.97 3992 125.12 1 25 18 427 182
South Africa 52 2005-2012 47 361 88 6461 117* 23.66 5218 123.82 1 27 29 564 234
England 60 2005-2012 48 378 88 6521 99 22.48 5334 122.25 0 28 30 593 171
New Zealand 55 2005-2012 53 430 86 7016 116* 20.39 5865 119.62 1 26 37 573 272
Sri Lanka 45 2006-2012 41 338 71 5565 104* 20.84 4688 118.70 2 23 31 554 133
West Indies 56 2006-2012 38 316 69 4921 117 19.92 4209 116.91 1 23 31 422 181
Pakistan 49 2006-2012 58 480 100 7800 87* 20.52 6770 115.21 0 29 41 667 233
Zimbabwe 31 2006-2012 20 176 34 2481 79 17.47 2228 111.35 0 12 24 218 75
Afghanistan 20 2010-2012 11 98 19 1394 77 17.64 1281 108.82 0 5 8 111 37
Bangladesh 32 2006-2012 24 230 39 2966 81 15.52 2739 108.28 0 9 22 244 92
Netherlands 26 2008-2012 16 127 26 1815 61 17.97 1725 105.21 0 6 11 138 39
Ireland 25 2008-2012 28 213 51 2889 79 17.83 2793 103.43 0 7 21 271 51
Scotland 28 2007-2012 17 140 24 1834 100 15.81 1782 102.91 1 4 27 160 37
Canada 38 2008-2012 15 140 26 1621 88* 14.21 1720 94.24 0 3 16 119 45
Kenya 23 2007-2012 17 150 25 1741 79 13.92 1888 92.21 0 6 17 148 33
Bermuda 14 2008-2008 3 30 5 187 37* 7.48 294 63.60 0 0 7 7 3

(sorted by batting SR) (Table and links from ESPNCricinfo)

Well, the picture isn't rosy either. While the four biggies - Australia, India, South Africa and England - top  the chart, Bangladesh miserably falls below Zimbabwe and Afghanistan. (Granted that the associates play more T20 on different conditions round the year.)

While it is true that these isolated stats do not say much on their own, but taken as a whole it does give a broader picture of Bangladeshi's stand in World T20 cricket. No matter how one sorts data, it all seems to stack against Bangladesh, with the team at the lower rungs. It cannot be any accident why, when common sense tells us that Bangladesh is not a T20 team, Bangladesh really turns out not to be a T20 team.

Case B: Bangladesh defeats World

The excitement of cricket lies within the uncertainty of the sport. When one simplifies it to sheer stats, the reductionist approach misses a lot. The game is not played on ink and paper or via computer simulation. One of the reasons why sports appeal to commoners is because of the human factor. Gross National Emotion. And, Bangladesh has a great reservoir of such a factor. A cyclone ravaged nation with one of the poorest GDPs in the world, Bangladesh time-and-time again has amazed world audiences. Maybe not consistently, but they have the firepower to overpower any obstacle. And ultimately it's this willpower that counts. 

Before Pybus, we have seen some fireworks from Tamim & Co. in World Cup 2007 to knock India out and spin the South Africans to a loss thanks to some serious motivation from Dav Whatmore. Although this facet has been under-emphasized during the Siddons era, after Stuart Law and currently under Pybus's influence, Bangladesh has a much wider exposure. They know what works and what doesn't. They keep their plan simple. Goofy shots have been drastically cut down while the level of immolation is not as flagrant. The Team is evolving. Who would've thought the same team that lost the opening match in Asia Cup against a team would turn around and put up a worthy fight against that same rival in the final. 

 The team is finally producing class players like Shakib and Tamim. As any fan can tell, Tamim, in full flow of the bat, along with Ashraful's vicious drives and cuts, are poetic to watch. Shakib al Hasan's ranking spills all over the format. And most importantly, Bangladesh is a Team, that is a team not having to rely on one man for victory. Who can forget Naeem's favorable 73 against Zimbabwe in 2009 in One-day? Or Mushfiqur's winning six against the West Indies in a T20, in an amazing 26-ball 41? Lower down the order, even Mahmudualah can contribute or stall opposition victories in Tests by hours. Alongside Nasir Hossin, Ziaur Rahman is a power slogger who often chips in with an extra 20 runs. And, of course, there is Elias Sunny: the only person to be named Man of the Match in a debut match in 2 formats.

Bangladesh is no longer composed of deadweights, who squirmed their way into the team through connections. Critics will point out that at the end of the day only two major factors count: consistency and experience and Bangladesh seems to lack them both. But, Bangladesh have moved to the second round many times, even if we disregard Asia Cup heroics. 

In spite of a World Cup disaster, Bangladesh is no longer losing matches but they are losing different kinds of matches. And each serves as a lesson.To any fan who suffered the shock of an Asia Cup near-miss, it would've raised a flag amongst them and the camp of what NOT to do when a match is so close, yet so far. After reducing Trinidad and Tobago to dust at 12/5, they learned yet another valuable lesson. No matter who the opposition may be, no matter what the target is, no matter what the situation is at any given moment: cricket is an unpredictable game.

Anything can happen.

And yes, anything can happen. If at 12/5 a club team can defeat the vastly experienced heads of Ash, Shakib and Mushy, then by the same manner of reasoning, after hitting the bottom after the recent loss, Bangladesh can bounce back like their opponent themselves!

But Bangladesh is its own worst enemy. They have all the talent and they do clock in hours of hard work. But it's the lack of experience to close, that has cost them numerous times. In the book The Two Second Advantage it mentions a pick-up artist, who after fcountless rejections, became master at the dating game. Loosely, when you start losing , even if it's a loss, you start creating at taxonomy or an internal work flowchart of how the loss happened. Just like chess; albeit with fewer combinatorics. One's brain forces networks and connections; next time, if the same mistake is to be committed, it raises an alert. By now, Bangladesh have lost so much matches, in so many diverse scenarios, that they have become fairly adept at knowing how a loss can creep up on them and from which angle. Gillespie's 200, Watson's rampage, Sehwag's pounding - each were of a different nature.

Lastly, the uncertainty of the format is a silver lining. The team not only had its fair share of losses, but by now, overthrowing bigger nations is not a big deal. They have become hungrier. And only a T20 World Cup win can satisfy their craving.

And until then, Tigers will remains Tigers. The question is not if they can win the World Cup, but are they good enough to overcome their own faults, grab themselves by the tail for a miraculous heist of the century?

 

About the author(s): Having graced the forum behind the dramatis personae of Gopal Bhar, Zeeshan now chiefly lurks here for nearby free iftar locations ie when not contemplating about Gödel, Escher and Bach or other meta-mathematical themes. He is also the author of "Collected Writings on Cricket".

 

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