When Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza was trying his best to tone down expectations on the eve of yesterday’s World Cup match against South Africa, he may as well have been talking to a brick wall as far as the Tigers’ loyal fans were concerned.
Travelling to The Oval yesterday morning an hour and a half before the match was set to start, the trains conveying passengers to the station bearing the name of the iconic venue were dotted with green shirts that had a splash of red. Exiting the station itself, the trickle of green and red became a deluge that flooded the streets up to the wrought iron gates of the venue.
The proportion of Bangladeshi supporters to South Africans at that time of the morning could roughly be split 80-20 as stuffed Tigers and cries of ‘Bangladesh. Bangladesh!’ dominated the sights and sounds.
“We are optimistic, we will definitely beat South Africa today,” said a fan who had come all the way from Essex to watch the Tigers.
Another Tiger tragic from Shadwell in London was even more optimistic.
“Oh, I think we will win today. If we bat first and score 290-300, or if South Africa bat first and we can keep them to 260, we will win. And we’ll get to the semifinals; then with a bit of luck we will make the finals and if we do that, we will become champions.”
This forecast was by no means uncommon. It showed that Mashrafe’s comment the previous day, when he said that ‘some think we have already won the World Cup, others think we have made the semis’ was accurate.
Inside the ground, while Bangladeshi support was not as dominant as it was in the outside the gates -- hinting that Bangladesh fans are as intent on celebrating the occasion as they are to watch the action -- Tigers supporters still decidedly outnumbered their South African counterparts, as was evident from the volume of cheers when Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim were plundering boundaries.
It reached a crescendo when Mosaddek Hossain and Mahmudullah Riyad were putting the finishing touches on what would be Bangladesh’s highest total in ODI cricket. When Mahmudullah hit a crisply timed six off Kagiso Rabada in the last over, a Bangladesh fan in the stands could be overheard telling someone wearing the South African colours: “You can’t spell Bangladesh without a bang.”
Wanting to tone down expectations is understandable, but if Bangladesh keep batting the way they did yesterday, it will prove to be a futile exercise from Mashrafe.