There were bouncers aplenty during Bangladesh’s batting practice at the Cooper Associates County Ground in Taunton yesterday. That indicated the line of attack the Tigers were expecting against West Indies, their next opponents, in tomorrow’s World Cup match.
After a good-humoured foot volleyball game to warm-up, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan were the first three batsmen to go the nets and all were given a steady diet of the short stuff by net bowlers and teammates alike.
“We normally try to simulate in the nets what your opponents are likely to do,” said Tamim Iqbal shortly afterwards during a press conference.
The match against West Indies has assumed a must-win feel because after the washout against Sri Lanka on June 8 which left them with just three points from four games. While they have every reason to feel confident against the Windies -- who just yesterday overtook Bangladesh in the ICC rankings -- as they beat the Caribbean side thrice in last month’s tri-series in Ireland.
The Tigers have also beaten West Indies in ODI series home and away last year. Tamim, however, said that West Indies look a different team.
“We have an idea about their batsmen and bowlers, but I have noticed their different planning in the World Cup. It is not the same as we faced in Ireland or West Indies. They are focusing heavily on the short ball, but if you handle it well, there’ll be opportunities to score runs. They have been bowling this way against all sides. We have to prepare for both, so that’s why we are working hard in practice. We want to make sure it is not a surprise for us.”
After a promising start in their World Cup opener on June 2, Bangladesh have been in the doldrums as they went on to lose narrowly to New Zealand and convincingly against England, before the washout left their semifinal chances in a precarious state. The Tigers were however in good spirits yesterday and Tamim sounded a confident note when he said that West Indies were not the only team that looked different.
“If you look at how we played our first two matches, we also looked a different side. We were challenging the top teams in these conditions. One went in our favour, one didn’t. It will be a good match I think; we just need to see who brings their A game on the given day,” Tamim said, and the confidence was undiminished when asked whether he thought the Tigers were favourites despite West Indies taking Bangladesh’s seventh spot in the new ICC ODI rankings.
“Of course, why not? We have won more than them in the recent past. We can be favourites of course. In Ireland we won all three matches against them. It does not matter to me who are favourites and who are not. Cricket is a game where whoever brings their A game has a chance on that particular day. That is the case for any team in this World Cup. It is not important who has that tag, it’s about whoever plays well.”
A recurring question has been about the small boundaries of the ground and how it may play into the hands of West Indies’ power hitters.
“As I said, sometimes big grounds seem small and small grounds seem big [depending on frame of mind]. But I think there are other ways to get people out. Catching people out is not the only way. In the Australia-Pakistan game [in Taunton], Australia had big hitters but they scored 300 -- not much when you consider the ground and the way they started. It depends on how we plan and are able to restrict them. The field is the same size for both teams; maybe they have a bit more power.”