The distance between two of the London’s most amazing cricket stadiums, the Oval in Kennington, and the Lord’s in St John’s Wood, is only four and a half miles. But in the course of their 33-day ICC Cricket World Cup campaign, Bangladesh experienced a roller-coaster ride from their first venue to the last one. Tigers got a flying start and aroused a hope of making it to the semis when they outplayed South Africa in their first game at the Oval but the end of their journey was quite opposite as they suffered a disappointing defeat against Pakistan in their last match at the Lord’s. In between the first match and the ninth one they had two more victories, against West Indies and Afghanistan, and one washed-out match due to rain against Sri Lanka. Eventually, Bangladesh finished their world cup venture securing the eighth position in the point table while a victory in the last game against Pakistan would easily have placed them at number five. Except their average attempt against England and Pakistan, Tigers put up a tough fight even in those matches where they couldn’t bring result in their favour. The fact is that Bangladesh hardly could maintain consistency and play as a team, yet shining performance of some of the players made a statement about the potential of the team.
Bangladesh’s continuous impressive performances in ODI cricket since the World Cup 2015 made their fans much optimistic about the Tigers’ World Cup campaign in 2019. Especially their consistent success in the last one year before the World Cup fueled the hope of their supporters to a great extent. Bangladesh earned the championship title of a tri-nation tournament in Ireland for the first time and became the runners-up in the Asia Cup in Dubai as well. And apart from their only ODI series defeat against New Zealand, the team won all other ODI series at home and abroad during this period. Besides the recent records, the combination of experience and youth made the team a contender for the semis. Before the WC 2019 five senior players of Bangladesh Mashrafe (209), Mushfiq (205), Shakib (198), Tamim (193) and Mahmudullah (175) together had the experience of playing 980 matches! And Tiger fans believed that with these experienced campaigners if at least three or four of the junior players like Soumya, Liton, Mosaddek, Sabbir, Saifuddin, Mehidy and Mustafiz could do justice to their talents in every match, Bangladesh could dream for any result.
The red-green squad knew that their batting line-up was their biggest strength. Thus they relied on their batsmen and that’s why every time their skipper Mashrafe won the toss, he chose to bat second with a view to chasing down the total of their opponent. It can’t be said that Bangladesh batters did a bad job but the fact remains they were over dependent on Shakib Al Hasan who ended the World Cup 2019 with 606 runs, breaking Sachin Tendulkar’s record of the most runs scored in the group stage! Batting at number three the left-hander hammered two centuries and five consecutive half-centuries with an average of 86.57! His outstanding consistency and lone fight made Bangladesh’s innings ‘one man show’. Tigers’ best batsman Mushfiqur Rahim played some decent knocks including one century and two fifties to score 367 with an average of 52.42. None of the other batsmen were dependable enough.
Except their partnership of 60 runs in their first match against South Africa, openers Tamim and Soumya hardly could get a good start in other matches. Especially Tamim Iqbal was a big letdown with an average of only 29.37. And because of his recklessness Soumya Sarkar finished the World Cup with an average of only 20.75. Like them middle order batsmen Mithun (with an average of 15.66), Liton (with an average of 46.00), Mosaddek (with an average of 19.50) and Sabbir (with an average of 18.00) repeatedly gave away their wickets by playing careless and unnecessary shots. All of them got ample opportunities. Power hitting in the last 10 overs was a crucial problem for Bangladesh. Even with all his experience, Mahmudullah (with an average of 43.80 and strike rate of 89.75) did not have the kind of impact which was expected of him. In the whole World Cup Tiger batsmen’s poor show in the late overs didn’t allow them to put a big total. Their highest runs in the last 10 overs were 87 against Australia. It was because Mosaddek (with a strike rate of 106.36) and Sabbir’s (with a strike rate of 97.29) slow and average batting efforts disappointed the team throughout the tournament.
As expected Tigers’ bowling attack was not up to the mark in the World Cup. In fact, with a very few exceptions, the bowlers displayed an ordinary performance. When it comes to the new-ball attack, Bangladesh was one of the worst performing teams in this World Cup. They continuously failed to pick early wickets and create pressure on the opponents. For the major part of their WC campaign, Mashrafe shared the new ball with Mohammad Saifuddin. The medium pacer duo seemed one-dimensional and lacked the pace to tame the opposition batters in the first power play albeit in the later spells Saifuddin made comeback and picked up crucial breakthroughs. Therefore, in the end, his post-tournament figures looked quite decent with 13 wickets at an economy rate of 7.18. However, Mashrafe was the biggest upset in the attack, finishing the tourney with just one wicket spending 6.44 runs per over. He couldn’t replicate his impressive performance of last four and a half years in the World Cup.
Bangladesh’s bowling struggled in absence of an ‘X-factor’. And as the tournament progressed, the fact was gradually exposed. The team’s key bowler Mustafiz failed utterly to threaten his opponent batsmen with his bowling skills. Though the cutter master finished the World Cup with 20 wickets, 10 of those came in the last two matches against India and Pakistan when English wickets started to get dried. It was too late for his team. Despite his pace, Rubel Hossain was kept out of the eleven in most of their matches and when he got chance, he was quite expensive and couldn’t justify his inclusion. On the other hand, the Tiger spinners did a tremendous job despite the fact that the wickets were not offering much to them. Shakib’s left-arm spin was Bangladesh’s go-to option whenever they needed a breakthrough in the middle overs. He got 11 wickets with an economy of 5.39. Shakib was well supported by Mehidy Hasan Miraz (6 wickets with an economy rate of 5.08) and Mossadek Hossain Saikat (3 wickets with an economy of 5.97). None of the Tiger spinners went for six or more runs per over in the tourney, which was a fabulous achievement in English conditions.
Bangladesh performed most horribly as a fielding unit. In a tournament like World Cup when a team doesn’t have a capable bowling line-up, it can make up the loss with better fielding efforts. Athletic attempts of fielders can boost up the performance of an average bowling side. But in Bangladesh’s case crucial catches were dropped at crucial times. In fact, Tiger fielders dropped eight catches in the tourney. If you think about a few dropped chances, you can easily realize that those catches cost them a lot. Against Australia, Sabbir missed the catch of David Warner when he was just on 10 and that miss later punished Bangladesh by156 more runs. Tamim dropped Rohit Sharma at sweeper against India when he was on 9 which consequently helped him to score 104. Against Pakistan, Mosaddek misjudged an ‘absolute dolly’ from Babar Azam at point when he was on 57. Later he went on to score 96. Besides, Mushfiq made a school-boy like error to help Kane Williamson avoid a run out in the twelfth over when New Zealand was struggling after losing their two openers. Williamson later went on to share a crucial 105-run stand with Ross Taylor which facilitated his team to overtake Bangladesh. And the ground fielding was not up to the mark in most of the matches as sloppy efforts in the field offered valuable runs to the opposition which turned very costly for the team. Better fielding attempts alone could have taken Bangladesh to the semifinals and perhaps even further.
Among all the three formats of the game one-day international (ODIs) is the most favourite one for Bangladesh. That is why hopes were high before the World Cup 2019 regarding their probable performance on the global stage. Thus the Tiger cricket fans are disappointed as Bangladesh could not make it to the semifinals. Nevertheless, they have some reasons to feel satisfied as the team showed some promise indeed.
Unfortunately Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) never could prepare their team following a proper plan. While finding and choosing its selectors, players, coaching staff and team managements, and developing cricket infrastructure it couldn’t do justice to the expectations of Tiger cricket fans. Now it has come up with its traditional reactive attitudes and removed its head coach, pace and spin bowling coach and physio. It was a blatant attempt to pass the buck and neutralise the anger of the supporters. If a proper evaluation is done, BCB’s own role behind the inconsistent performance of Bangladesh team in the World Cup will come into question.