In front of the Park Plaza hotel in Nottingham, a bunch of local fans were standing with autograph books in the morning yesterday. The Bangladesh team were set to board a bus from the hotel towards Southampton at 12:00pm and all the autograph hunters were waiting by the bus to grab the signatures of the players as they boarded. All of the players obliged and took time to sign their names and, of course, pose for selfies.
That one scene signified the growth in stature of the team over the course of this World Cup. To get down to brass tacks, their chances of making the semifinal have become slim after the 48-run defeat against Australia the previous day. However, after chasing 322 with 51 balls to spare against West Indies and scoring a spirited 333 for eight against five-time champions Australia, the Tigers have suddenly gone from underdogs to a team to watch, if not currently as genuine contenders then certainly for their entertainment value. For the first three matches, casual fans would have known about Shakib Al Hasan, who topped the run charts at that stage with a century against England. But from West Indies, they knew about Shakib and Liton Das, and against Australia, they would have taken notice of centurion Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad, whose acceleration near the end of the innings briefly raised hopes of a heist.
Adulation from locals notwithstanding, Bangladesh do have a tough road ahead. They have to win their three remaining matches against Afghanistan in Southampton, India in Birmingham and Pakistan in London to stay in contention for a semifinal
Undaunted after loss place. But it was also a measure of the Tigers’ growing confidence that they did not seem worried on the morning after a match that reduced their chances considerably. Just as Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur did not lose belief that Australia’s 381 could be conquered even after being reduced to 175 for four in the 30th over, the rest of the squad, most smiling as they left the hotel, also seemed to believe that they were not out of it as long as there were matches to be played.
Bangladesh reached Southampton at around six in the evening yesterday, and they will take part in an optional practice session today. Still at fifth in the 10-team table, Bangladesh will take on Afghanistan on Monday, before heading to Birmingham to play India on July 2.