Bangladesh will be confronted with pressure of a different kind when they take on Sri Lanka today in the World Cup game at the Bristol County Ground. In the five World Cups they have played so far, Bangladesh were not expected to beat Test playing nations other than Zimbabwe, and that too only since 2007. In this edition, if rankings are anything to go by, there are three teams that the seventh-ranked Tigers are expected to beat -- West Indies, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, ranked eighth, ninth and 10th respectively.
Added to that is the high chance of rain in Bristol today, which will affect Bangladesh more as they have just one win from three matches.
With all 10 teams playing each other once, a team would have to win a minimum of five matches (the English weather permitting) to stand a chance of qualifying for the semifinals. With Bangladesh having won one of three matches so far, against higher-ranked South Africa, and with all three matches against lower-ranked opposition to come, today’s match against Sri Lanka takes on special importance.
“I think there is no relief in any World Cup match. Every match is important for us; we have kept that in our equations from the start,” Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza said at the pre-match press conference yesterday. “It is true that we have played the first three matches against teams [New Zealand and England being the other two] who are set in these conditions, whereas we would need time. Even so, after winning the first match we thought that if we could win another of the first three, it would have become easier for us. We thought that we could win the New Zealand match especially, because after South Africa our concentration level, our confidence level was so high that we could have beaten New Zealand.”
All the talk before and during the early stages of the World Cup has surrounded whether Bangladesh can reach the semifinals, and Mashrafe said that was still the aim, although two successive defeats had made it harder.
Even in games they [Bangladesh] haven’t won, they have put in good performances
which have suggested they are going to be a tough opposition
for everybody, so we know that.
Sl Batting Coach
“It’s not going to be easy, but obviously I’d love to see ourselves in the semis. The calculation right now is very difficult. If we managed to win one of those matches against New Zealand or England, it would have been a lot easier. But at the moment, it looks very difficult.”
There is much history between today’s opponents. They form the budding cricketing rivalry in Asia, with recent matches being competitive, the defection of Chandika Hathurusingha from being Bangladesh coach in 2017 to becoming the coach of his native Sri Lanka and some heated matches such as the Nidahas Trophy encounter in 2018.
It was an indicator of how much water had gone under the bridge that Hathurusingha’s name was not mentioned once in the press conference, and about the budding rivalry, Mashrafe said that none of it would matter when the two teams meet on the ground.
“I think when two Asian teams are playing, especially Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, both teams are thinking that they will get the points from this match,” said Mashrafe. “It is true that both teams are on equal footing, now whoever plays well will have a better chance.
“I think pressure will be there in every match, even the Sri Lanka match. We have to cope with those pressures and make sure we deliver. A few things can happen, go away from us, but we have to make sure that at the end of the day, we are on the winning side. From the first ball, that’s what we have to target.”