No Gayle or Kohli, “but we have our small combinations that have worked for us”, argues Bangladesh captain
Clearly, the humiliating loss to Hong Kong in the Group A qualification phase of the ICC World Twenty20 2014 is still working in Bangladesh’s minds. Four days after that two-wicket embarrassment, Mushfiqur Rahim, the skipper, dwelt on it at length even as a bigger challenge beckons in the host nation’s opening Group 2 Super 10 game against West Indies, the defending champion, at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium on Tuesday (March 25).
“We are going into the match after a humiliating defeat to Hong Kong, but in the past too, we have come out of miserable times and done well,” said Rahim on Monday. “In the Asia Cup too, we had lost to Afghanistan but then we came back strongly against Pakistan. We lost that match but we fought till the end and it could have gone either way. Had we won all three matches and qualified as group champions, the team would have been marginally higher in confidence but it wouldn’t have changed much. Now that we are in the Super 10, we have fulfilled our first target. Now, our next target is to make it to the next level. We are taking heart from the fact that in T20, any team can win on a given day. We have a good chance to play good cricket and on our day, we can beat any team. In this group, we don’t have anything to lose. Every time teams play us, they will be under pressure and not us.
“The loss to Hong Kong is shocking and disappointing. We have worked really hard over the last few days. We have to execute our plans well and do the basics well. We have to be a bit more calm and show better shot selection. Hopefully, tomorrow will be the day when we can show the world that we can play well in T20 too.”
Bangladesh has had mixed results, and therefore mixed emotions, against West Indies in World Cups. Bangladesh won in the World T20 in South Africa in 2007, but crashed out of the 2011 World Cup after being shot out for 58 in its own backyard, a result that drove the fans to stone the team bus. “It’s not easy to bounce back from the kind of defeat we suffered in our last game,” conceded Rahim. “But as Hong Kong has shown, anything can happen in this format. We didn’t play to our potential. Yes, the 2011 memories are there, but we have played them in two more series after that and even won a few games. Those memories are there too. We must focus on playing well. They also didn’t have a good game last night. They will be under pressure too as it’s a must-win match for them. If we apply ourselves well, we can win.
“These will be completely different conditions and we are focusing on the present. I know if we can play our best game to our potential, then even if the opponents are defending champions, in our home conditions we can give them a run for their money. If everything goes well, we might kick off our Super 10 campaign with a bang. We might not have someone of the stature of (Chris) Gayle or Virat (Kohli) but we have our small combinations that have worked for us. We might not have extraordinary players but we are not so bad either. If we give our 200%, we can show the world that our cricket is right up there.”
Seeking to exploit West Indies’ perceived weakness against spin, Rahim said, “We know their strengths and we know their weaknesses. If the wicket helps spinners, obviously we will go in with a plan. You have to bowl well, irrespective of whether the wicket aids spin or not, as they can’t get rolled over for 120 if you just turn up and bowl. Sohag Gazi (the offspinner) has a good record against Gayle. We are hoping if we get a wicket like the one in the last few matches here, which has helped spinners, then definitely Gazi has a good chance to play. If we get a pitch to our liking and knowing that West indies are not so good against spin, then why not play the extra spinner? They want to play big shots and don’t often rotate strike. So we have our plans.”
Rahim did admit that the form of his spinners was a bit of a concern. “Even on wickets which have offered turn and where we have thought that our regular spinners will take wickets, we have been disappointed. But I think it’s just one good performance away and they will come back strongly,” he said.
Bangladesh kicks off its Super 10 campaign a day before its Independence Day, on March 26, and Rahim said that would serve as extra motivation. “But even otherwise, every match that we play for Bangladesh, we feel we are fortunate and honoured to represent our country,” he said. “We always try and perform so that we can make our country proud. The fans have stuck by us despite us not doing well over the last three months. Hopefully, we will perform well and back them too.”