By Habibul Bashar
Published : 2017-05-31 21:15:56
It feels great to see Bangladesh back in the ICC Champions Trophy. We have a long history with the tournament, even though we don’t have great results to show for, but I am delighted that after having missed the 2009 and 2013 editions, we are back in the second most prestigious 50-over tournament after the World Cup.
We take great pride in the fact that we hosted the first edition of the tournament, then called the ICC KnockOut Trophy, in Bangladesh in 1998. Even though we were not a part of the tournament, it was the first exposure for the people of Bangladesh to high-quality international cricket, and I really can’t quantify the impact it had on Bangladesh cricket.
Our first foray into the event was in the second edition, in Nairobi in 2000. We were yet to play a Test match, and to rub shoulders with the best in the world was a phenomenal experience. Admittedly, we went down to England by eight wickets, but it was the first time we were sharing a hotel with the top players in the world, able to talk to them and pick their brains, and also watch them go about their business, both when it came to preparation and to actual execution of skills. It was an eye-opener for us as a team and as individuals, and I can state with all honesty that those few days were to have a massive influence on how our cricket developed.
Both in 2002 and in 2004, we came home empty-handed in terms of results, but with tons more experience and understanding of what it takes to succeed at the highest level. Then in 2006, we had to come through a qualifying campaign, and lost to Sri Lanka and West Indies before recording our first victory, over Zimbabwe.
Even though we didn’t too well against Sri Lanka and West Indies, those matches allowed us to get a sense of where we stood as a team. We realised the areas in which we needed to improve, the work we needed to put in to push the bigger teams. The learnings from the 2006 Champions Trophy played a big part in our performances in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, where we defeated India and qualified for the second phase.
While it was disappointing to miss out on the next two editions, Bangladesh can take pride from the fact that they qualified for this year’s competition and are currently seventh in the world. We have had a great run of results in the last two years, winning five One-Day International series at home including against strong sides like Pakistan, India, South Africa and England. There is genuine belief and confidence within the ranks, and I personally feel that we are now better equipped to do well overseas, too.
That confidence stems from the experience and the quality that the likes of Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah and Mashrafe Mortaza bring with them. Most of them have been around for a decade now, have played in all parts of the world and understand what the demands and the nuances of the 50-over game are. Throw in the youthful exuberance and the undisputed skills of Soumya Sarkar and Mustafizur Rahman, and there is a solid core group that Bangladesh can bank on to drive them.
Plenty will of course depend on what kind of pitches we get in England, in the first half of June. If they are dry, I expect Bangladesh’s spinners to come into the picture, but even otherwise, we have the pace resources to trouble the best in the world. It will be tough, I am under no illusion; after all, we are clubbed with Australia, England and New Zealand, but I believe the fast-bowling unit of Mashrafe, Mustafizur, Rubel Hossain and the pacy Taskin Ahmed can hold their own against any batting group.
How well Bangladesh’s batsmen cope with the moving ball remains to be seen. If the batsmen can negotiate the new ball successfully, Bangladesh will be on to a good thing. However, if the middle-order is exposed reasonably early, it could be an issue against high-class pacemen.
The fact that Bangladesh are currently playing a triangular series in Ireland as preparation for the Champions Trophy is great news. It will help the players stay together as a unit for more than a fortnight leading into the big event, and allow them to get used to the conditions they will most likely encounter in the Champions Trophy. I am optimistic of a good Bangladeshi run, because all the ingredients are in place. It won’t be easy, but then again, international cricket seldom is.