The curve can only go up
Bangladesh went to Oman for the T20 World Cup in high spirits on the back of successive maiden T20I series wins over Australia and New Zealand. However, since arriving in the middle eastern country, everything has gone downhill, barring that one win against Oman 'A' in the sole unofficial practice game.
The nadir of disappointment was when Bangladesh succumbed to a six-run defeat against associate nation Scotland in the tournament opener.
Not only did that defeat shatter the confidence of a team that had been fearing a mishap since defeats in both of official practice games against Sri Lanka and Ireland, it also proved the preemptive threats made by the Scottish players and drew heavy criticism from within the Tigers' own quarters, supporters and media, instilling doubts in a team that was at the peak of their confidence even a fortnight ago.
Bangladesh stayed alive with a win against co-hosts Oman in the next game but the 26-run win came only after a major scare. At one point, Mahmudullah Riyad's troops appeared vulnerable and meek. Questions regarding their approach, strategy and ability were still raised after that victory, drawing snarky replies from Shakib Al Hasan, the player-of-the-match against Oman.
The Tigers only played like the group favourites that they were in a record 84-run triumph over T20 World Cup debutants Papua New Guinea in the following game, but by that time a sense of unrest had already been created within the team due to the negative remarks from all corners. The team was not even spared the wrath of Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hassan.
On their way to recovering from the slump, Bangladesh made it to the Super 12 stage with the added inspiration of proving the doubters wrong. For Mahmudullah's men, who seemed to have hit rock bottom early on in the tournament, the graph can now only go up.
Last-minute changes in group seeding by the ICC now sees Bangladesh alongside Sri Lanka, Australia, England, South Africa and title defenders West Indies in Group 1 -- the tougher of the two groups. But despite being drawn into the tougher group, Bangladesh have positives to draw from.
The Tigers commence their Super 12 journey today against an inexperienced Sri Lanka side, who are four places below the Tigers in ICC T20I rankings and made it this far after securing a place through performances in the first round just as the Tigers did. It is true that Bangladesh lost to the Lankans in their warm-up game, but that was in absence of stalwarts Mahmudullah and Shakib.
If anything, that defeat exposed the opponents' weaknesses which can now be exploited and strengths that can now be guarded against.
Still, Bangladesh must come out with the A-game at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium today and that means runs are required from the likes of batting mainstay Mushfiqur Rahim, whose lean patch is yet to come to an end.
The Tigers also need ace left-arm paceman Mustafizur Rahman to get back to his usual rhythm. That can happen from today, with the rest of the tournament's fixtures to be played in the UAE, where Mustafizur recently shone for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL just ahead of the marquee event.
With hopes of Mushfiqur's willow yielding runs, Mustafizur's wrist doing the magic, Shakib carrying on his tremendous form with both bat and ball to the business end of the tournament and Mahmudullah and the squad's motivation and drive reinvigorated, Bangladesh can only be hopeful of better things in the rest of the tournament.