Will sense dawn after the ‘reality check’?
Having gone into the Asia Cup with lofty dreams, as it so often is the case with Bangladesh despite no history of success in major tournaments, skipper Shakib Al Hasan has already put it in the rearview mirror.
"Do we still have a chance?" Shakib inquired, with a dismissive laugh, at one point of the post-match press conference in Colombo on Saturday night following the Tigers' 21-run defeat in their second Super Four game against co-hosts Sri Lanka.
With two defeats at the business end of the continental championship, Bangladesh's fate is no longer in their own hands.
However, seeing their Asia Cup campaign come to an apparent end is probably the least of worries for a side that was served with, according to the captain, a "reality check" ahead of the ODI World Cup.
The perceived notion that Bangladesh are a balanced ODI side now seems to be misleading. For making such a claim, the one mandatory pre-requisite is possessing the ability to excel, or at least make a significant statement, in a major tournament.
Even Shakib admitted that. "To date, we could never excel at a major tournament," he said.
Barring a few sporadic wins against big teams, why is it that Bangladesh have failed time and again to prove their mettle when it mattered the most?
An introspection might reveal that the team depth that the Tigers have boasted for a long time never existed in the true sense. For instance, after Liton Das was initially deemed unavailable from the Asia Cup squad due to viral fever, Bangladesh team management had to go for a makeshift opening pair after just playing two regular openers -- Mohammad Naim and Tanzid Hasan Tamim -- in the first game.
Pairing Mehedi Hasan Miraz with Naim for the opening slot paid off against Afghanistan in the group stage and yielded a decent result in the last game in Colombo. However, if Miraz had to be played as a makeshift opener in a big tournament like the Asia Cup, it only exposes that the team management could not rely on the young 22-year-old opener Tamim just after one game, and also not on a more experienced Anamul Haque Bijoy, who was flown in to join the squad for his specific role as an opener.
Even the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hassan Papon dismissed the top-order currently playing in the Asia Cup. "Tamim [Iqbal], Liton Das, and [Najmul Hossain] Shanto… they are our regular top three. The ones who are playing are not supposed to [play], so I don't blame them for such a performance," Hassan was quoted as saying to the media in Sri Lanka after the game on Saturday night.
This, however, brings up the question: Is having proper players in the pool to cover up for the regular starters not a norm for any side playing cricket in the world?
Also, is the "rich pipeline" not something that the Hassan-led BCB has boasted about time and again?
While Hassan seemed unfazed about the Tigers' current performance as these did not come from the regular eleven, skipper Shakib's words painted the true picture of the dire state of Bangladesh cricket when he admitted that "we do not have the bench strength that could allow us to risk losing 3-4 players to injury."
Co-hosts Sri Lanka are playing without four of their regular starters in the Asia Cup. Still, in consistent with their knack for never bogging down in major tournaments, Sri Lanka remain one of the favourites in the tournament. And even if they had failed, probably the blame would not have been pinned on the absentees as it is expected of big teams to have players in their ranks who can step up and do the job even when dealt with a poor hand.