Bridgetown: When Bangladesh beat India to knock the powerhouse out of the World Cup, it was considered an upset. Beating South Africa in the Super Eight earned real respect.
Bangladesh’s young team stunned India by five wickets in the group phase and forced the cricket world to take notice of an emerging side.
Yet, it was not until Habibul Bashar’s team recovered from two heavy losses against defending champions Australia and New Zealand to pull off another stupendous performance against South Africa that unheralded Bangladesh were considered worthy of their new-found status.
“We take a lot of positives from this World Cup, earning us more respect from top teams,” says Bashar, who asserted on qualifying for the Super 8 that Bangladesh were not there just to make up the numbers.
“When we play now, our rivals realise that we can win. We’re capable of beating top teams, but we lack consistency. We appear brilliant in one match and the next day we’re pretty ordinary,” Bashar said.
Bangladesh’s surge in the tournament coincided with the decline of India and Pakistan, both former World Cup winners who failed to cross the preliminary round hurdle.
Bashar said the victory over South Africa turned a new leaf for Bangladesh, silencing critics who until then were not convinced of their place in the Super Eight that was the equivalent of a quarter final league.
South Africa were ranked world’s No. 1 team the day their batsmen were bowled out for a paltry 184 by the spinning trio of Mohammed Rafique, Abdur Razzak and Shakib al Hasan.
“It’s a great feeling when you beat the No. 1 ranked side,” said Bashar. He asserted that cricket watchers should not have been surprised to find Bangladesh in the Super Eight and marking their best performance in the premier limited-overs competition.
“This has been a memorable World Cup for Bangladesh, we’re delighted to have created a new milestone for our country,” said Bashar, whose team at one stage had a slim chance of making the semi-finals before inconsistency yet again put paid to their hopes.
When they made their first appearance in the World Cup in 1999, Bangladesh beat Pakistan and Scotland — results that prompted their quick elevation to Test status. In 2003, they failed to make a mark and even suffered a defeat against modest Canada.
Since then, they have pulled off some big wins in the limited-overs arena, beating World Cup champions Australia during a 2005 limited-overs tri-series in England.
During their last limited-overs series against India and Sri Lanka, Bangladesh had managed to post their maiden one-day wins against these subcontinental rivals.
The challenge was to reproduce those winning performances in the biggest stage that the World Cup offered.
This World Cup outing ended with three wins, including one against debutants Bermuda. But they lost to the mostly amateur team from Ireland. Drawn alongside Sri Lanka and India in a tough preliminary pool, Bangladesh turned it into a group of opportunity.
Bangladesh had played limited-overs Internationals for more than a decade. Confronted with frustrations along the way, their cricketers often motivated themselves by citing the example of Sri Lanka’s emergence from a non-Test playing nation to world champions.
“It’s an exciting time for Bangladesh cricket,” said Bashar. “Cricket is a huge game back home, our good World Cup show will provide it a major boost.” Coach Dav Whatmore said the young team had tremendous talent and work ethics.