It would not be an exaggeration to say that the results that hurt the Bangladesh team most are not the comprehensive defeat against England or the narrow one to New Zealand. Most painful could well have been yesterday’s abandoned World Cup match against Sri Lanka at the County Ground in Bristol, where incessant rain prevented them from trying to defeat a lower-ranked opposition at a crucial stage.
The Tigers’ three previous matches were against higher-ranked opposition, and they started positively by winning against one of them -- South Africa -- on June 2. As head coach Steve Rhodes said after the match was called off at 1:37pm, they were targeting this match as an encounter from which to extract two points. Instead, they have taken a solitary point from the match and, with three points from four games, sit at number seven on the 10-team table. Sri Lanka -- whose previous match against Pakistan at Bristol was also abandoned -- are in fifth position with four points from four games.
With each team having to play the nine others in the round-robin first stage of the mega event, the equation just became tougher for Bangladesh. Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne saying that they did not want to get ‘free points’ and Rhodes insisting that they will see this washout as a point dropped was evidence enough of which way the respective teams were expecting the match to go. To be fairly certain of a semifinal spot, seventh-ranked Bangladesh will now have to claim the scalp of a third higher-ranked team, assuming they beat eighth-placed West Indies in Taunton on June 17 and Afghanistan, who are ranked 10th. With South Africa’s scalp already in the bag, the candidates now are two of India, Australia and Pakistan, whom they have beaten four times out of four since the last World Cup.
Their next match on June 17 against West Indies, whom the Tigers have beaten in ODI series home and away in 2018, will not be a simple one as the Taunton County Ground is a small one where the threat from West Indies’ power-hitters will be amplified.
As rain pelted the city of Bristol the previous evening, the Bangladesh players at the team hotel were hoping -- in defiance of the forecast -- that a game would be possible the following day. Mushfiqur Rahim and Sabbir Rahman arrived at the ground yesterday at 10:45 am, despite there being no sign of rain relenting. The rest of the team joined them around two hours later, hoping against hope. More than the equation to reach the semis, that fond hope may also have been occasioned by the eagerness to turn their momentum around after two harsh defeats on the trot.
While the equation has become tougher, it has also become more straightforward. With rain coming with the territory of matches in England, Bangladesh will now have to look to win every time they are on the park. It now remains to be seen how the Tigers respond to this altered reality.