Bangladesh won the ICC Women’s World T20 Qualifier 2018 in the Netherlands earlier this year to seal their spot in the World T20 in the Caribbean starting 9 November, and are looking to make a statement there, writes Karunya Keshav.
For Salma Khatun's side, it's been a long journey to the Caribbean – literally and cricket-wise. They're still battling jet lag, and getting all the practice they can get, especially of playing under lights – something they haven't done much of.
They come into the tournament ranked No.9 on the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s T20I Team Rankings, but their opponents would do well to be wary of the challenge they pose. Earlier this year, they defeated India twice on their way to lift the Asia Cup title, and also had among their scalps Pakistan.
TEAM PREVIEW: BANGLADESH 🇧🇩— ICC World Twenty20 (@WorldT20) November 6, 2018
They've not yet won a match at a #WT20 but could the Asia Cup champions spring a few surprises this year?
PREVIEW 👇https://t.co/C5gXQ6GBLi pic.twitter.com/ww4X8BrVYf
Riding high on the success, Rumana Ahmed, their star all-rounder, said, "Asia Cup is in our hand, the qualifier trophy is in our hand. Everything is going well, so we are confident this time."
Here are five reasons behind their rise.
All-round bowling attack
Spin has always been their strength. They have two bowlers in the top 10 of the rankings: Rumana, the loopy leg-spinner, at No.7 and Nahida Akter, the left-arm spinner, at No.9.
However, in recent times, they’ve hunted as a pack. Khadija tul Kubra and Salma's off-spin has given them good support, while the pacers too have pitched in. Jahanara Alam, their new-ball bowler, became the first from the country to take a five-wicket haul when she had 5/28 against Ireland, while the tall Panna Ghosh picked up 5/16 a couple of weeks later.
According to coach Anju Jain, the variety in their attack and speeds makes the bowlers stand apart and offer something different.
Fargana Hoque and Shamima Sultana have held together the batting. Both batters have got two half-centuries this year, and between them have the top four individual scores for their country. They have also shown the ability to accelerate when needed.
With Ayasha Rahman, Rumana and Salma pitching in, the team have posted all their top eight highest totals this year.
"The game is changing, with a lot of power hitting," pointed out Jain, identifying several of the players as capable of clearing the ropes. Constant work on fitness, and training with set targets of areas to attack and runs they want in a certain number of overs has helped them pace innings better, she said.
Welcome to #WT20, @BCBtigers! 🇧🇩 pic.twitter.com/f5nGNFX0zI— ICC World Twenty20 (@WorldT20) November 5, 2018
Mastering the chase
Nine of Bangladesh’s 13 wins this year have come while chasing. They’ve shown an ability to hold their nerve and pace their chase, including, memorably, at the Asia Cup. They chased down a target of 142 in 19.4 overs for a seven-wicket win over India, for their highest total batting second, and second-highest total of all time.
They also had last-ball wins against India and Ireland, and the confidence from that will be vital.
Bangladesh defeat India for the second time in the women's T20 Asia Cup, this time in the final! 🏆— ICC (@ICC) June 10, 2018
REPORT ➡️ https://t.co/4XY6hWbr3a pic.twitter.com/d8JybZLUlO
According to Jain, the players took a while to have faith in their ability to chase. "In the Asia Cup, we had a lot of discussions about it. These girls were always keen on batting first," she said. "But we (support staff) said that in the shorter formats it’s always better to have a target. Bowling has been their strength, but we felt we had good batting too."
Match practice against strong opposition
No team other than India have played as many T20Is as Bangladesh in the past 12 months. They have tested themselves against India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Ireland, all of whom will be involved in the World T20. Ahead of the tournament, they spent a week in Grenada, practising against boys' teams.
The Caribbean 🌴 is gearing up for the biggest cricket carnival of 2018! 🎉— ICC World Twenty20 (@WorldT20) October 29, 2018
Find out what the captains of Bangladesh 🇧🇩, Ireland 🍀 and Sri Lanka 🇱🇰 are saying ahead of the ICC Women's #WT20.
READ 👇https://t.co/InGu002Is4 pic.twitter.com/kx7HpZ7IIR
They may not have won as many matches against higher-ranked teams as they’d have liked, but in all, they have 12 wins out of 20 matches this year.
“When you lose, it doesn’t mean that everything is gone,” Rumana was philosophical. “Even when we lose, we can learn. The South Africa tour was effective for us because the condition there was difficult. We knew that we played well against them. After that we played the Asia Cup and won!”
Dominance against lower-raked sides
When they’ve come up against lower-ranked sides, Bangladesh have pressed their advantage and taken confidence from it. Their top three biggest wins – whether you look at it by runs, wickets or balls remaining – have come in 2018.
"They’ve taken the success in a positive way and they’ve responded to the added pressure and responsibility," said Jain. "It’s helping them to be more confident and there’s a keenness and eagerness to do well.
"I believe skills-wise they are at par [with higher-ranked] teams. It’s just the mindset. Just participating in a tournament is one thing, and looking to do well and making your presence felt is a different approach. That’s what we are working on, the mindset that yes, you can beat any side."