With their World Cup campaign poised on a knife’s edge, an extended break from all things cricket could not have come at a more opportune time for Bangladesh. With their next match against frontrunners India to take place in Birmingham on July 2, Bangladesh do not have much to do other than look at the other results that may facilitate or hinder their passage to a maiden World Cup semifinal.
Five cricketers -- Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Mithun, Abu Jayed and Mustafizur Rahman -- have not made the trek from Southampton to Birmingham, choosing to spend the time away and rejoin the team by June 29. Having arrived at the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham the previous evening, the remaining members of the team were in relaxed mood yesterday morning. Skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza could be seen in front of the main entrance of the hotel, waiting for a car to take him, his family, Mehedi Hasan Miraz and his newlywed to a village in Wales two hours away.
Even though the intention of the break was to give the Tigers an opportunity to be rejuvenated ahead of their most searching examination against India, that match or the World Cup never seemed too far away from discussions.
A big concern has been the calf injury surrounding Mahmudullah Riyad. Although Mahmudullah has not scored as many runs as Shakib or Mushfiqur Rahim, he has been in good touch and is a vital component of the Tigers’ batting order at number six. Apart from matches against England and New Zealand in the early stages, Mahmudullah has had telling contributions, including scoring 27 off 38 balls while hobbling between the wickets against Afghanistan on Monday. A scan after the match revealed a Grade-1 tear on his right calf, and that put Mahmudullah in doubt for the crucial game that Bangladesh will have to win to stay alive in the race to the semifinals. Further alarm was raised on Tuesday when the senior cricketer was seen on crutches when boarding the team bus from Southampton.
Mahmudullah’s chances were a topic of informal discussions in front of the team hotel yesterday. The feeling seemed to be that it would be a difficult task to get him fit in time -- it takes seven to 10 days to recover from a Grade-1 tear -- but that the cricketer was intent on playing the do-or-die game.
A weather eye was also kept on the Pakistan-New Zealand match a few miles away in Edgbaston. Pakistan are behind Bangladesh on points and are Bangladesh’s opponents after the match against India. Mashrafe got his wish with England’s defeat to Australia the previous day and a Pakistani loss would make it two in two days.
As Mushfiqur Rahim came out and went back in -- waiting for a taxi presumably -- and Mahmudullah rested, Mashrafe and Mehedi departed en famille for a village. A getaway it may be, but cricket will likely be on all of their minds.