'Must meet our own expectations'
Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, as attacking as he is as a player and captain, usually prefers to be guarded about the team's chances before a match or a tournament. That did not change when he sat behind the microphone for the pre-tournament press conference at Birmingham, five days before Bangladesh take on home favourites England in the opener of the 2017 Champions Trophy at The Oval in London. There is plenty of reason to be cautious as Bangladesh are in the proverbial group of death with England, Australia and New Zealand.
For much of the press conference at Birmingham yesterday, Mashrafe seemed at pains to remind the audience that it will be a hard group to get through and seemed okay with the underdog tag for a team playing their first Champions Trophy after it became an eight-team event post-2006.
They qualified after being ranked seven at the cut-off point, and Bangladesh have recently improved their position to sixth after beating New Zealand in the last match of the tri-series in Dublin on Wednesday.
“For us it is a very joyous thing that we have gradually come up from nine to six. We want to go even further,” said Mashrafe. “This tournament is going to be very hard for us -- we are playing in a group that is very hard and the conditions as well. But you never know, on your day you can do anything and we have some quality players who can change the game. We love to play as a team, as we have been doing so far.
“It is normal that people will think of us as underdogs; that is to be expected. But from our side we have to be clear about our expectations. We want to play well here. It is hard to say about winning or losing in this group, but if we play to our expectations and according to our plans, hopefully the matches will be good and that is what we are focusing on.”
So on the surface, with talk like 'on your day you can do anything' it would seem that the Bangladesh skipper is not holding out much hope as genuine contenders in this type of tournament will need more than one or two good days. But Mashrafe's competitive nature did not stay hidden too long.
“From our side we have to be clear about our own expectations,” Mashrafe said when pushed further on his thoughts about Bangladesh's chances. “It is hard to say about winning or losing in this group, but if we play to our expectations and according to our plans, then hopefully the matches will be good and that is what we are focusing on.
“Although everyone thinks of us as underdogs, they also know that if they lose to us they will miss out on a big point. Not just us; even those who are playing for the Cup [in our group] cannot say what will happen.”
And that was the cue to ask whether he was focusing on the Cup too like the other teams he named. “Of course, I meant that other than us the other three teams cannot say for sure what will happen.”