■ Current ODI ranking: 7
■ Main player: Mushfiqur Rahim
■ Appearances: 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015
■ Best: Quarter-finals (2015), Super 8 (2007)
■ Squad: Mashrafe Mortaza (captain), Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim (wicketkeeper), Mahmudullah, Shakib Al Hassan (vice-captain), Mohammad Mithun, Sabbir Rahman, Mosaddek Hossain, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Jayed.
Dubai: The Tigers are back at their favourite hunting ground. It was in England that it all started in 1999 for Bangladesh, who moved on to the big stage after upsetting Pakistan which enabled them to push their case for a Test status.
After four World Cups since then, Bangladesh’s performance graph, after hitting a high in the last decade, has been on a downward spiral as they find themselves in seventh spot in the ODI rankings. Though the Tigers have qualified for the quarter-finals of the 2015 edition in Australia and New Zealand, the team seems to be missing the aura that helped them to reach their pinnacle.
The inability to win close games, especially in the T20 World Cup against India and ...the Asian Cup final...leaves a question mark over their ability to win highstakes clashes.
One of the key reasons for their slide is the constant change of coaches. After Chandika Hathurasingha guided them during the showpiece in 2015, there have a sporadic change in coaching staff with former England wicketkeeper Steve Rhodes at the helm now after short spells of Richard Halsall and Courtney Walsh, the interim coach who guided the team to Nidahas Trophy final.
After getting routed by Afghanistan in the T20 series under Walsh in India, Bangladesh have redeemed themselves with 2-1 series victories over West Indies in the shorter formats under Rhodes and even made the final of the Asian Cup held in UAE. In the warm-up tri-series involving hosts Ireland and West Indies recently, Bangladesh looked ready as they defeated the Caribbean islanders to clinch their historic first ODI title.
It’s a well-knit team loaded with match-winners and laced with a right dose of youth. Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar can go on the rampage in powerplays and class acts like Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah, their first centurion in World Cup, lends stability in the middle order along with the young all-rounder Mosaddek Hossain, who proved his worth with a half-century against the West Indies in the final.
Bowling will be led by Mustafizur Rahman along with the veteran warhorse Mashrafe Mortaza. Once the powerplay is done and dusted and the ball gets old, the Bangladesh bowlers can keep a tight leash on the batsmen, arresting the flow of runs when the ball becomes soft in the middle overs.
The presence of many all-rounders, including the linchpin Shakib Al Hassan, will give them the advantage to be flexible with the combination.
The tail of the Tigers is not known to wag, especially under pressure, and they have succumbed on many an occasion after impressive starts. Should Bangladesh get into a tight spot for qualification into the next round, this will play on the minds of the top-order batsmen, who might do something rash that can cause their downfall.
The team has some newcomers like Abu Jayed and Mosaddek, so a lot will depend on the experienced Shakib, who is just getting back into the groove in the tri-series after a lacklustre Indian Premier League season.
After beating West Indies in the tri-series in the build up to the World Cup in Ireland, the Tigers will be well acclimatised to the conditions in advance and will be ready with their right team composition. However, the team need to play as a unit and not allow controversies to affect their morale. To start with, the team jerseys caused a stir as the fans were upset that it resembled the Pakistan jersey, while Shakib missed the team photo-shoot before their departure — raising a few eyebrows.
The inability to win close games, especially in the T20 World Cup against India and in the final of the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka and the Asian Cup final, will certainly play on their minds and leaves a question mark over their ability to win high-stakes clashes. Though the Bangladesh players will be greatly relieved to get the monkey off their backs with their first ODI title in the recent tri-series, the World Cup is a different ballgame and there are no easy ties. Key players like Shakib, Mustafizur and captain Mortaza are prone to injuries and should they break down during the tournament, it will cause a big hole that will be difficult for Bangladesh to fill in.