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India superior but don’t count Bangladesh out: Habibul Bashar

Former Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar believes India possess a superior side in all departments ahead of their ICC Champions Trophy clash, but that Bangladesh now have an opportunity to better themselves as a cricketing nation and should not be taken lightly.

icc-champions-trophy-2017 Updated: Jun 14, 2017 17:08 IST
Habibul Bashar
Habibul Bashar
Former Bangladesh skipper Habibul Bashar believes Bangladesh can further defy expectations and beat India, despite Virat Kohli’s men being the superior side.
Former Bangladesh skipper Habibul Bashar believes Bangladesh can further defy expectations and beat India, despite Virat Kohli’s men being the superior side. (AFP)

As Bangladesh braces for the biggest match of its cricketing journey, the one question the team must ask themselves is this – are they merely satisfied to have finally made the semi-final of an ICC event, or do they have the hunger and the desire to go a step further?

Knowing the team and the pride they have in their performances, the answer is fairly straightforward. While they can be justifiably happy at the fact that they are in the semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, the team will not be content to rest on their laurels. This is a great opportunity for Bangladesh to emerge from the shadows and establish itself as a serious contender for higher honours, and that is how they must and will approach the semi-final against India at Edgbaston on Thursday.

The last couple of years have seen Bangladesh’s stock climb exponentially, starting from its quarter-final appearance in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. That run has since mushroomed into several excellent limited-overs results, mainly on home turf, as well as a maiden Test victory over England, also at home.

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Bangladesh has also made the finals of the Asia Cup in both the 50-over and T20 formats, and while those are all wonderful achievements, I think this semi-final berth in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, where the top eight teams in the world are in attendance, must rank at the top of the list.

At the start of the tournament, few would have given Bangladesh a chance of making it to the knockouts, and perhaps justifiably so.

Bangladesh was clubbed in the more competitive Group A alongside England, Australia and New Zealand, all of whom have had fairly good results in such competitions. But, such is the beauty of cricket that reputation and pedigree count for only so much. At the end of the day, what matters is what kind of cricket you play out in the middle, and Bangladesh played excellent cricket against New Zealand, which is why they now find themselves on the cusp of making the final.

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Agreed, Bangladesh got a little bit lucky with the weather. Then again, they aren’t the first team to benefit from the vagaries of nature, is it? The important thing is what you do with the fortuitous opportunity that has opened up for you. Bangladesh seized that lifeline with both hands to orchestrate an extraordinary run-chase against New Zealand, so there is no denying the fact that they deserve their place in the semi-final.

This is a moment Bangladesh cricket, as well as 160 million Bangladeshis, have waited for a long time. The passion for cricket in my country is massive, and I feel the die-hard fans deserve a team that is capable of rubbing shoulders with the best in the business. Before the tournament began, I had said in these very columns that Bangladesh no longer had a point to prove to anyone, and that if they don’t make it to the semi-final, they must see it as a failure of sorts. I am glad that the team has vindicated my stance.

Both the victory against New Zealand and the way in which it was achieved would have immensely boosted Bangladesh’s self-belief and confidence. The team will now feel that no task is beyond them, that if they play to their potential, they can get the better of anyone. It is this attitude, this fearlessness and an uncluttered mindset that the team must take into the semi-final shootout against India.

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Bangladesh and India have done numerous battles in the past and India has largely had the better of the exchanges. This time around too, India appear the more balanced, more superior side both in terms of the batting and the bowling. Their openers are in very good touch, and they have a number of match-winners down the order.

I also feel they have an excellent pace attack, perhaps the best in the competition and with loads of variety, as well as a quality spin combine in Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandaran Ashwin. Especially in the victory against South Africa, they flexed their fielding muscle too, so it would appear as if India has all bases covered and could be a bridge too far for Bangladesh.

However, this tournament specifically has already reiterated that anything is possible on any given day. You can take the opponent lightly only at your own peril, and while I don’t think India will give Bangladesh anything but the utmost respect, I don’t see any reason why Bangladesh can’t come away with the right result.

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The important thing from Bangladesh’s point of view is to not approach the semi-final either with a sense of a job well done, or with apprehension and nerves, given the stage and the occasion.

My message to the Bangladesh cricket team is simple: it might be uncharted territory, but don’t get overawed. Enjoy the game, have fun, focus on the process, and let the result take care of itself.


First Published: Jun 14, 2017 16:56 IST

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