The aim of any global sporting showpiece should be to provide a level playing field, and it was note-worthy that -- whether by chance or design -- Bangladesh’s Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and Afghanistan’s Gulbadin Naib were the two captains sitting on either side of the World Cup trophy during yesterday’s official World Cup captains’ press conference in London. It would be easy to say that these are the two nations least likely to win the World Cup as in the general perception they are not yet contenders, but the first question Mashrafe Bin Mortaza was asked during the presser revealed that Bangladesh’s performances over the last four years -- since their march to the 2015 World Cup quarterfinals -- has caught the eye of people who assess the different teams’ chances.
Moderator Mark Chapman asked about the nine ODI series Bangladesh have won between the two World Cups, all under the stewardship of Mashrafe. The Narail express answered on stage that they now have a good bunch of cricketers, with a nice mixture of experienced players and talented, exciting youngsters.
“Cricket is a game that on your day you can beat anybody. If you start well, you can hang in there. We are very much confident, but it depends on starting well,” he said on stage.
But on the sidelines, when talking to a few Bangladeshi journalists, Mashrafe appeared pleased with the attention that Bangladesh had gotten because of the results over the past four years.
“When we [captains] were talking among ourselves, they asked about us winning nine series since the last World Cup,” Mashrafe said after the event. “That they know about this, that our win percentage over the last two years is very good… these analyses, maybe once I didn’t even think that they thought about these things.
“That means that big teams think about these things about us; that they know means that they have discussed about these things. This is an improvement. I hope that if we keep performing like this, we will have the ability to get to the next level. I hope we are at the next level, now it is about doing well in this tournament. But it obviously feels good that they are respecting Bangladesh cricket.”
Bangladesh have a lot to be happy about heading into the official training camp in Cardiff from tomorrow, then the warm-up matches against Pakistan and India on May 26 and 28 respectively, before tak-ing on South Africa in their World Cup opener on June 2. They just won their first ODI multi-team trophy in Ireland a week ago, and while Mashrafe thought that oft-doubted players like Soumya Sarkar, Liton Das and Mosaddek Hossain firing made them as well prepared as ever, the Tigers would do well to put the euphoria of Ireland behind them.
“I have to say that it is hard to be better prepared than we are now. And of course it is a huge confidence boost to win our first trophy after so many disappointments, but we cannot be holding on to that for long. Instead of thinking of winning our first three or four games, we have to focus on the first game. I think the Ireland win was a great thing for us, but now the focus needs to shift to June 2.”