Will Bangladesh field its best ever team in the 2019 World Cup | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 14, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 07:20 PM, December 17, 2018

Will Bangladesh field its best ever team in the 2019 World Cup

Mashrafe Bin Mortaza celebrated his 200th ODI in style earlier this week, with a three-wicket haul that outfoxed a hard-hitting West Indian line-up and restricted the visitors to a below-par total, which the Tigers eventually cruised past with ease at Mirpur.

The Narail Express became the first Bangladeshi player to cross the 200-barrier. It however, goes without saying that he won't be the sole holder of that tag for too long. Right behind him are the quintessential trio of Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, who are just a few matches away from reaching that mark.

Aside from being brilliant personal achievements, the above milestone and numbers provide plenty to think about, if you are a Bangladeshi sports analyst or even a fan.

The 50-over World Cup, arguably the marquee event of this sport, is set to take place in England and Wales in May next year. While most sporting analysts around the world wouldn't place Bangladesh anywhere near the favourites' arena, numbers suggest that this could perhaps be Bangladesh's only shot at achieving something big.

Bangladesh could potentially be the most experienced squad, in terms of the number of ODIs played, when the World Cup begins next year. Currently, the Tigers are the only team in the world to have five cricketers who have played more than 150 ODIs. Mashrafe, Shakib, Tamim, Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah Riyad have held the backbone of this team for ages and that has allowed youngsters to come in and play with a freehand.

Sure enough, the World Cup is still five months away and a lot can change by then. However, if one were to compare the potential 15-member squads of all the teams of the World Cup—based on the performances of the players in 2018—then the Tigers would be at the forefront as far as the number of ODIs is concerned.

Teams like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and Australia are going through a transition and still seem to be working on finding their feet. South Africa are busy dealing with ways to replace the likes of AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel and also the injury-prone Dale Steyn.

England, India and New Zealand have a good mix of experience and youth in their respective teams and at the moment seem to be the strongest to get that trophy.

Likewise, Bangladesh too have managed to build a strong team around the five pillars.

Numbers support the above four as well. In 2018, England, India, Bangladesh and New Zealand have the highest win percentages so far. While England and India have a win percentage of 0.7 out of 1, Bangladesh has 0.6.

Now, experience obviously isn't everything. But for the Tigers to potentially go into a marquee event as the side to have cricketers who have played the most number of ODIs, is something quite extraordinary, considering that nobody gave them a chance to compete in the big league prior to the World Cup in 2015.

And make no mistake, this is a thought that the big five of Bangladesh cricket are very aware about. Two years ago, when Shakib had just completed ten years of international cricket, he was asked if Tamim, Mushfiqur and him were a part of a golden generation for Bangladesh's cricket.

He replied saying: “If you see, all the teams are going through transitions or have just finished their transition at the moment. In our case, the transition happened a long time ago. And those present right now are established. We have seven to eight players who have played at least 70 to 80 ODIs each.

“The five of us, Mashrafe bhai, Mushfiq bhai, Tamim, Riyad bhai have played 150 ODIs each. Even [Abdur Razzak] Raj bhai has played 150 ODIs. I think in world cricket, there are few players who have played 100 ODIs at the moment. Every team may have three to four players but they won't have as many as seven to eight. So that's an advantage for us.”

Further on in the interview with The Daily Star, he said that he felt Bangladesh had a chance to do something special in the 2019 World Cup.

While the above depicts the positive aspect of experience, one can't help but worry about the days to come.

Mashrafe is 35-years-old and he recently decided to contest  the upcoming elections. There are talks about him bidding adieu to the game after the World Cup. Mushfiqur, Mahmudullah and Shakib are all in their 30s. It's uncertain as to whether they will be available for the next World Cup.

And even if they do, they won't necessarily be in the best of forms. In fact, this World Cup, in terms of age and experience, is going to be the best chance for these five Bangladeshi cricketers to showcase themselves.

Going into the World Cup, the Tigers have the experience and the form to be considered as big contenders of the event. However, very few analysts around the world would place their bet on Bangladesh reaching the last four. And that's because Bangladesh, despite having performed well in the recent past, have repeatedly failed to cross crucial barriers.

For one, they are yet to win a series including more than two Test teams. They have failed to win the Asia Cup, despite getting extremely close a number of occasions. They have been guilty of throwing away games in nerve-wrecking moments.

Will the World Cup next year be any different?  The big five will certainly be hoping so, for they know, that this could very well be their last shot at glory.

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