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Review: Bangladesh in Cricket World Cup 2015 (2015)
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The Tigers enter their fifth World Cup campaign, and in many ways are the least prepared of all 14 participating teams. Bangladesh(s last international fixtures in either Australia or New Zealand were exactly five years ago at the tail end of the 2010 summer. All of the other thirteen teams have toured Oceania in more recent times. It will be extremely difficult, yet not impossible, for Bangladesh to acclimate to the largely unfamiliar conditions quickly enough to strike above expectations.

Bangladesh 2015 World Cup Preview

Published: 15th February, 2015


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Record since 2011 World Cup: 18 wins, 30 losses
ODI rank: 9th (out of 12)

The Tigers enter their fifth World Cup campaign, and in many ways are the least prepared of all 14 participating teams. Bangladesh's last international fixtures in either Australia or New Zealand were exactly five years ago at the tail end of the 2010 summer. All of the other thirteen teams have toured Oceania in more recent times. It will be extremely difficult, yet not impossible, for Bangladesh to acclimate to the largely unfamiliar conditions quickly enough to strike above expectations. 

On paper, Bangladesh has the most talent and the most balance than they've ever had before. Yet this same team endured a disastrous 2014 in which they lost 12 consecutive games before finally breaking the streak with a 5-0 clean sweep of Zimbabwe. Bangladesh will hope that they can regain the form they enjoyed in 2012 and 2013 when they went 10-7, and an even better 9-5 against the top sides. 

With a 10 week layoff between engagements, the Tigers will have had enough time to nurse their existing wounds, and run through a vigorous training camp. With new Sri Lankan head coach, Chandika Hathurusingha, at the helm, it would not be a surprise if Bangladesh is transformed into a disciplined and efficient side. In particular, the two areas most in need of improvement are fielding and strategizing. Fielding is the one area in which any team, through sheer hard work alone, can aspire to be the best in the world. It’s the only aspect of cricket in which an amateur can match the professional. Ground fielding has to tighten up, and the most athletic fielders like Nasir Hossain and Sabbir Rahman need to set up shop inside the ring at cover and point. Catches need to be taken, and an emphasis needs to be placed on having fielders in aggressive catching positions whenever Bangladesh finds themselves with momentum. Bangladesh regressed alarmingly under Mushfiqur Rahim's rigid leadership and potentially lost out on several easy wins. New skipper, Mashrafe Mortaza, must be mindful of making the same mistakes.

Squad

Mashrafe bin Mortaza (Captain, Right Arm Fast Medium, Right Hand Batsman)
ODI record: 144 matches, 183 wickets @ 30.51, 4.67 econ, Best of 6 for 26

Masri has started off his second tenure as skipper on a victorious note by leading the side to a 5-0 whitewash of Zimbabwe. Most impressive was his clever rotation of bowlers and this prevented the opposition from getting comfortable at the crease. His tinkering of the batting lineup, although not as successful, also hinted that he was willing to adapt to changing circumstances instead of relying on a predetermined "safety first" script employed by his predecessor. Of course the World Cup will throw far stiffer challenges than a dysfunctional Zimbabwe side away from the comforts of home. As captain and the senior-most member of the squad, he will be expected to open the bowling and keep things tight if not provide the first breakthroughs. As Bangladesh's best ever fast bowler, and leading a largely inexperienced attack, a lot of the burden will be on his strong shoulders. No longer the genuinely quick bowler he once was, as long as he isn't bowling at the death, Bangladesh will be fine with his consistent line and length deliveries. Can also hit the ball a long way, but not consistent enough as a batsman to rely on his run scoring abilities. At 31, and with seven surgeries in his charts, this will likely be Mashrafe's final world cup, and success will highlight what has been a mostly illustrious career so far. 

Shakib al Hasan (Vice-Captain, Left Hand Batsman, Left Arm Orthodox)
ODI record: 141 matches, 3977 runs @ 34.58, 182 wickets @ 27.92, Strike Rate of 79.41, 4.26 econ, High Score 134*, Best of 4 for 16

The world's #1 ranked all-rounder has had a tumultuous year having faced several suspensions and fines for various offenses, real and imagined, but now seems to have put all that behind him. The numbers are there for all to see, but beyond that there is the matter of his presence alone. If Mohammad Ashraful is Bangladesh's first superstar, then Shakib is the first genuine superstar from Bangladesh. He is a fierce competitor and his intolerance of losing has single-handedly won Bangladesh many matches. Fortunately, he now has several teammates who are also capable of winning matches on their own, as evidenced by the fact that the Tigers' most recent series win, a 3-0 sweep of New Zealand was achieved without him. Shakib's strength is that he counts as two players but only takes up one slot in the XI. As a batsman he can keep the scoreboard ticking and is Bangladesh's most skilled boundary hitter, and as a bowler he is known for bowling tidy spells as a career economy rate of 4.26 indicates. Most importantly, he thrives under pressure and saves his best for when it really matters. 

Tamim Iqbal (Left Hand Batsman)
ODI record: 135 matches, 3971 runs @ 29.85, Strike Rate of 77.55, High Score 154

At the last world cup, most people thought of Bangladesh as being a team made of just "Shakib and Tamim". One would be foolish to think that this is a side devoid of other game-makers. Tamim has slipped over the past few years into a peculiar position of being a leading batsman, but with very few marquee performances. He has consistently scored runs, but his average has refused to cross 30 for as long as anyone can remember. His strike rate of 78, while not bad, is also nothing extraordinary. All this is disappointing every time you see him play a powerful cover drive or a gentle flick off his pads and realize just how much better he should be. Nonetheless, Tamim is the type of player who thrives outside the subcontinent and it would not be unexpected to see him blossom in Australian/New Zealand conditions. 

Anamul Haque (Right Hand Batsman, Wicket-Keeper)
ODI record: 27 matches, 892 runs @ 35.68, Strike Rate of 70.84, High Score 120

During the 2012 Under-19 World Cup in Australia, Anamul ended up as the leading run scorer during a tournament also featuring the likes of Quinton de Kock, averaging just over 60. He made his senior debut a few months later and cracked 120 against the West Indies in his hometown of Khulna, signifying his readiness for the highest level. He now has his chance to make a mark down under once again. Although his footwork is poor, and his ability to score by running needs improvement, he has nonetheless maintained a batting average of nearly 36 - the highest on the team. His strike rate of 71 is on the slower side, but is OK given that he usually attempts to anchor the innings. He does play the hook and pull shots well off pace, and that penchant for backfoot play will be vital on the bouncy tracks likely to be encountered at the World Cup. He and Tamim have formed a pretty good understanding at the top, although they need to be a bit more proactive in scoring runs during the initial powerplay. Is already one of Bangladesh's leading centurions in the format with 3 hundreds from just 25 innings. His lack of footwork is troubling, but he may still have the mental strength to be one of Bangladesh's leading scorers during the tournament. 

Mominul Haque (Left Hand Batsman)
ODI record: 24 matches, 539 runs at @ 25.66, Strike Rate of 74.65, High Score 60

Mominul's Test batting form has been superb, reeling off 4 centuries from just 12 Tests, but he hasn't been as productive in the game's easier format. He wasn't even a sure fire selection, but the selectors opted for the little experience he has and his tremendous work ethic. He did show flashes of solidity in 2014 before his place the side was shuffled and perhaps if given a good run in the side, he can make it count. 

Mushfiqur Rahim (Right Hand Batsman, Wicket-Keeper)
ODI record: 140 matches, 3143 runs @ 28.92, Strike Rate of 71.35, High Score 117

Along with Shakib the ex-captain is Bangladesh's best batsman across formats. His average and strike rate since the last World Cup are 38 and 80, respectively which are significantly higher than his career average and strike rate of 29 and 71. Mushfiq has the technique and backfoot game to succeed in Oceanic conditions and also has the temperament to bat long. He can bat in all gears according to the needs of the game, by batting up top and setting up the innings, accumulating in the middle, and accelerating at the death. His wicket keeping is, however, average at best and the team would be better balanced by having Anamul keep wicket instead. That he has been relieved of captaincy is a good thing as the team had been regressing badly under his overly conservative approach. 

Nasir Hossain (Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Off Break and Right Arm Medium Fast)
ODI record: 41 matches, 1044 runs @ 34.80, Strike Rate of 78.73, High Score 100

Since making his debut right after the 2011 World Cup, Nasir had been a revelation for Bangladesh with his fearlessness and supreme consistency. Until this year, he had averages north of 40 in both formats of the game, unheard of numbers for a Tiger. 2014 however was not a kind year for Nasir, and his prolonged dip in form was cited as the reason for Bangladesh's horror streak. He averaged just over 20 for the year with a top score of 41. His swagger also went missing as he fumbled the ball in the field instead of the usual stunning acrobatics. That being said, Nasir's show in his first three seasons are enough to warrant the hope that he can return to his ways as being the country's top finisher in the limited overs setup. Can also bowl part-time, either regulation off spin or surprisingly quick medium pace approaching 80 mph. 

Sabbir Rahman (Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Leg Break)
ODI record: 5 matches, 83 runs @ 27.66, Strike Rate of 125.75, High Score 44*

Sabbir had been threatening to enter the fray for a while now. At 23, Sabbir should now be mature enough to enter the prime years of his career. Just 8 days older than Nasir, and of identical physique, the "twin" comparisons don't end there. Sabbir also has the same dazzling athleticism that is usually not associated with cricket, and together with Nasir they have the potential to create an impermeable ring inside 30 yards. Having Nasir at point and Sabbir at cover could potentially save Bangladesh 30 runs per match. Sabbir also brings the brand of late hitting that Bangladesh has never enjoyed before. Ziaur Rahman was more of a hulking slogger clueless against slow bowling and Mashrafe cannot handle genuine pace aimed at his toes. Neither are proper batsman, and this is where Sabbir comes in. His form in this season's Dhaka Premier Division was awesome as he frequently rescued his team from dire straits and yet still managed strike rates over 120. If he can be half the player during the World Cup, he will be a huge boost to the side. 

Soumya Sarkar (Left Hand Batsman, Right Arm Medium Fast)
ODI record: 1 match, 20 runs @ 20.00, Strike Rate of 111.11, High Score 20

Soumya is the surprise inclusion in this World Cup and interestingly the last time Faruque Ahmed chose a side, Tamim Iqbal was the virtually unknown left handed batsman picked. Soumya has great talent, his double century in the Under-19 Asia Cup versus Bahrain being an example. He however needs to work on his temperament as it relates to converting his starts. He is an aggressive batsman and should start right away. His medium pace is untested, but insiders seem to think he is decent enough to be a part timer at the highest level. 

Mahmudullah (Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Off Break)
ODI record: 110 matches, 2123 runs @ 32.16, Strike Rate of 72.90, High Score 82*, 67 wickets @ 42.14, 5.07 econ, Best of 3 for 4

As one of the more experienced players in the squad, Riyad is the only senior player not known to be a match-winner. Despite this, he has found a place in the squad and almost certainly in the starting lineup. He has had a pretty good run of form over the past several months and will need to keep it up if Bangladesh are to create some noise this year. He is likely to bat at #4 and will most likely play the role of anchoring the offense. His off spin can be decent on his day, as can his fielding, and he will need to bring his A game in all three departments. 

Taskin Ahmed (Right Arm Fast)
ODI Record: 3 matches, 7 wickets @ 12.71, 3.86 econ

Teenage Taskin is arguably the most exciting player to come out of Bangladesh's system since gaining Test status, offering the Tigers the chance of their first legitimate quick bowler. Blessed with the perfect frame and an exemplary work ethic, he can only go far. He made his debut against a second string India lineup this past summer and became the first Bangladeshi to seize a five-for on debut. Later, in the Caribbean, though he proved expensive in the one short spell he bowled, he did become just one of a handful of Bangladeshis to register a delivery in excess of 90 mph. His aggression and bounce will be the key things to watch out for Down Under, and while he may cop a beating at times, it is important that the management sticks by him as these sorts of talents don't just grow on trees. 

Rubel Hossain (Right Arm Fast Medium)
ODI record: 53 matches, 69 wickets @ 32.36, 5.58 econ

The Royal Bengal Express is fighting to not get derailed. Making his second World Cup appearance, Rubel has been released from the Dhaka Central Jail on a 3 month bail after he was arrested on allegations of rape. It does not seem as though there is any evidence against him, and should that be the case, Rubel will be a free man. Nonetheless, the wisdom of persisting with a distracted player may be questioned. When he is focused, Rubel can be a very good fast bowler, with the ability to turn a match any moment. Over the past several years, he has been Bangladesh's leading seamer in ODIs, and is a testament to the depth of the roster that he may now very well find himself being last in the bowler rotation. With an ability to skid the ball on, Rubel provides Bangladesh with another option capable of hitting 90 mph speeds. 

Al Amin Hossain (Right Arm Fast Medium)
ODI record: 11 matches, 17 wickets @ 26.00, 5.55 econ

Al Amin has emerged as a possible solution to Bangladesh's existential death bowling question. Using clever changes of pace and length, he has been able to keep things remarkably tidy in the game's dying stages. This World Cup tournament will put him to the test as he has the prospects of bowling to power-hitters like Corey Anderson, Glenn Maxwell, and Thisara Perera. 

Arafat Sunny (Left Arm Orthodox)
ODI record: 8 matches, 16 wickets @ 17.81, 4.14 econ

Arafat is a relative latecomer on a team that usually debuts players in their teenage years. As a result he is perhaps more mature than some of his predecessors. He has performed admirably in the few chances he's gotten, and while he may not be anything special, Bangladesh only requires solidity from a left arm spinner in the limited overs formats. 

Taijul Islam (Left Arm Orthodox)
ODI record: 1 match, 4 wickets at 2.75, 1.57 econ

Taijul became the first player ever to record an ODI hattrick in his very first game when he did so late last year in the final match of an 8-0 whitewash of Zimbabwe. With a classical, high arm action, Taijul gives the ball a good rip and can generate prodigious turn on the right surfaces. He is also unafraid of flighting the ball and Bangladesh will look to him to attack while Arafat keeps things tight. Of course, it is unlikely that both men will play in the same match. Both Taijul and Arafat will be wary of warding off criticism of the decision to pick three left arm spinners, especially when the coach had asked the selectors to add variety with the attacking leg spinner, Jubair Hossain. 

Draw

vs Afghanistan, Feb 18, Manuka Oval, Canberra

This will be an extremely nervous re-match from Bangladesh's vantage point. After an embarrassing loss to cricket's newest members in the 2014 Asia Cup, Afghan captain, Mohammad Nabi, has already gone on record claiming superiority over the Test nation. Bangladesh has often choked against Associate sides, and will be acutely aware of the need to win and win comfortably to keep their net run rate balanced if they wish to qualify for the Quarterfinals. Although inexperienced, the Afghan seam attack resembles that of a seasoned Test nation's with a potentially dangerous combination of brute pace and unrestrained aggression. If the Afghans sense weakness and make early strikes, they have the tenacity to finish the job and go for the kill. That being said, Afghanistan are just as inconsistent as Bangladesh, and their impulsive lack of humility means they play like Bangladesh lite. Bangladesh will bank on the quality of their batsmen and spin attack to unsettle and eventually subjugate the Afghans. 

vs Australia, Feb 21, BCG (Woolloongabba), Brisbane

This could be one of the more brutal games of the World Cup. The Gabba is, along with the WACA ground in Perth, the last place any Asian side would like to face an attack consisting of Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, and Pat Cummins. Unfortunately for Bangladesh they have to face the host nation in this lake of fire. If Bangladesh can score anything over 200, it will be an achievement, although you'd probably need something in excess of 275 to really feel safe. Suffice it to say that the first objective for Bangladesh will be damage control i.e. get out of this match with a positive net run rate, and Bangladesh will be feeling pretty good. 

vs Sri Lanka, Feb 26, MCG, Melbourne

Although Bangladesh has beaten Sri Lanka on four different occasions, they enter this contest with a monkey on their backs. Several times last year, Bangladesh came within inches of knocking the Lions off, only to find some barely believable way of losing. That being said, taking on another Asian side might be the Tigers' best chance of creating yet another World Cup upset. Although Sri Lanka always bites bigger than their size, especially at World Cups, where the welter-weight nation has one championship, two other finals appearances, and several total semi-final appearances, the feeling is that they may be the easiest take-down for Bangladesh. Much will depend on how effectively the Tigers can neutralize Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Matthews with the bat, and Rangana Herath and Lasith Malinga with the ball. 

vs Scotland, Mar 5, Saxton Oval, Nelson

Scotland enter this tournament with perhaps the strongest side they've ever possessed. Days after being crushed by Afghanistan last month, the Scots ended up walloping the Afghans by 150 runs in Dubai. Bangladesh cannot afford to take them lightly and really need to thump them in order to be 2-2 going into the final stretch of the group stage. Bat first, put up 300, and skittle the opposition for 200 or less should be the game plan here.

vs England, Mar 9, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide

England have not had much go right with their ODI form of late, but they did manage to out-play defending champions, India, to the final of annual tri-series in Australia earlier this year. They boast one of the better seam attacks in world cricket with James Anderson, and the twin towers of Stuart Broad (6'5") and Steven Finn (6'7"). In light of that, it will be a very tough game for Bangladesh to win, although, if they catch England napping, anything is possible. It will be interesting to see if Tamim Iqbal continues to shred the English bowling attack, something he did very well back in 2010. England has two glaring weaknesses: lack of a big hitter down the order, and the worst bowling economy rate in the last 10 overs. 

vs New Zealand, Mar 13, Seddon Park, Hamilton

The Kiwis always punch above their weight in World Cups, perennially reaching the semis. Four years ago their form was dreadful, having lost 11 consecutive ODIs at one stage, including a 4-0 sweep to Bangladesh. They still made it to the semis. This time however, New Zealand enter the tournament as one of the favorites to win it all. They have been on a tremendous hot streak lately with Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor being absolutely nasty. Like the Australia game, Bangladesh will do well to just keep it close and try to emerge with as little damage sustained as possible. Although Bangladesh has won 7 consecutive games against New Zealand, they have never won away from home and this game will be a serious test of the Tigers' resolve.

 

About the author(s): Asaad Wahid is a distinguished member of Banglacricket forum and he goes by the nick al Furqaan.

 

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