Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Mirpur March 19, 2012

Time for Bangladesh to get used to crunch games

How does a team that has for years played with low expectations approach a must-win game? Do they hide behind their underdog status, or prove they can deal with pressure?

If you ask a cricket fan in Bangladesh what he thinks of the national team, you will get a reaction of either adoration or exasperation, and very little in between. At the moment, with the team facing the rare prospect of reaching a tournament final, the dominant sentiment among Bangladesh fans is one of love for their cricketers. Even if they are disappointed, it will probably not be for long. Hope is in ample supply in Bangladesh.

The bar of expectation is habitually pretty low for the average Bangladesh fan. He does not buy a ticket expecting to see the home team win. He goes to the stadium to be part of the team's driving force, perhaps subconsciously hoping that he can make a difference to the outcome. Hope, in a sense, has been the essence of Bangladesh cricket.

There has been some change to that ethos lately. There are a few more critics of the Bangladesh cricket team now, within the country and among the millions of Bangladeshis spread across the world. The fact that the team has had good days more regularly than in the past has made people question why they are bad on other days. Criticism in Bangladesh cricket was reserved for Mohammad Ashraful between 2002 and 2008, when it was hard to find something to lament about after Bangladesh's many losses other than the failures of their most-talented batsman. In general, though, the feeling was more one of resignation rather than anger towards the team.

Bangladesh still lose regularly but the number of ticks in the "won" column has been steadily rising, though the incline is not as steep in matches against the higher-ranked sides. Their recent successes are due, in large part, to the presence of a world-class allrounder in their side, who wins them a lot of games and has been the team's most consistent batsman and best bowler over the past three years. They also have an opener who succeeds more than he fails, a captain who is growing in stature as a matchwinner, a set of pace bowlers who are inspired by a man roundly applauded as the bravest cricketer in the country, spinners aplenty, and a bunch of other batsmen who can, at least at times, look like they belong at the top level.

On Tuesday, these players will face a situation they have hitherto seldom been in. It is not often that Bangladesh play a must-win game with an eye on a tournament final, and it is the rarity of the situation that will perhaps increase expectations as they try to beat Sri Lanka to pip India to a place in the Asia Cup final. The only other time they made a tournament final was when they beat Sri Lanka to meet them in the final of a tri-nation tournament in Bangladesh, in January 2009.

Logic suggests that Bangladesh will start the match as underdogs. They have rarely been able to string together consecutive wins against top sides, with the 4-0 drubbing of New Zealand at home in the October 2010 ODI series a notable exception. That apart, a victory against a major team seems to be just an annual occurrence. So, an India-Pakistan final, with Bangladesh bowing out after a big defeat, is the most widely predicted result of Tuesday's game. In a sense, Bangladesh are once again the beneficiaries of low expectations and hence should not feel too much pressure.

However, the scenario can also be looked at in a different light. Bangladesh will hope that the pressure of a must-win match is something they will experience more frequently in the coming years. They will hope that, given the talent in the country, they will soon be expected to beat top teams, rather than just be given an outside chance. Perhaps this match against Sri Lanka is an opportunity for young players to experience some of that pressure. It is with that backdrop that Bangladesh's reaction to the must-win situation is eagerly anticipated. Will they come out thinking they have to win, or just hoping to?

The difference between an average team and a good one, it is often said, is than an average team does not know how to close the deal when they are near a win because they are not used to winning. There are already several individuals in the Bangladesh dressing room who believe they can win. With the inspiring performance against India, after the off-field chaos before the tournament, spurring them on, this is a match in which they can prove they can handle a pressure situation. A win in a crucial game like this will teach them far more than the annual upset.

Edited by Dustin Silgardo

Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shabbir on March 20, 2012, 18:42 GMT

    THE BAN v SL game should count for nothing as SL lost to all of the other teams. SO the reason why BAN are in the final is because IND were once again beaten BAN in a major tournament.

    Now obviously the truth hurts to many here but please remember BANGLADESH DID BEAT INDIA despite a golden duck that should have been given against Kholi and Shakib NOT being LB even though umpire said it was the case.

    Obviously BAN have a long way to go but for this tournament they have played with more heart, determination and intelligence than IND and SL. Bye bye boys!

  • mazen on March 20, 2012, 18:31 GMT

    Another Kohli's ton, another Indian ouster; I fear that some fanatics Indians don't associate Kohli's ton with some kind of sinisterness for Indian team. Anyhow, resurgent Bangladesh grabbed another victory against a superior but, this time around, against an lackadaisical and uninterested side. The purpose isn't of taking anything away from Bangladeshis; the credit must go to Bangladesh because the way they approach and build their innings was nothing less than a miracle. Hussain's equanimity, Tamim's calculated risk taking and Shakib's aggression helped Bangladesh achieve the rather daunting and not so easy target of 212 in 40 overs. It is evident that the batting becomes a little easier for the team batting second. Now India is out of this tournament and another Kohli's ton went in vain, let's see who will be triumphant. Pakistan after its previous dismal bowling performance against India can't afford to be complacent and has to play well to beat this well-looking Bangladeshi side.

  • MD. NAZRUL on March 20, 2012, 18:27 GMT

    "Team BanGLADesh" will meet with Pakistan in ASIA CUP FINAL and "Team India" will meet "Sri Lanka" at Hajrat Shahjalal International airport ...

  • Dummy4 on March 20, 2012, 18:11 GMT

    @Shahidul Rubel : Brother why is it a shame for Indian Fans. Congrats if ur team won but India waited for others in both the tournaments because they had already finished their league games earlier than the other teams. Please use a little bit of common sense before posting such rubbish. India did not deserve to reach the CB series final. But in spite of some superb & excellent cricket shown by Bangladesh, i think India deserved a place in Asia cup final.

  • Muthuvel on March 20, 2012, 18:09 GMT

    lankan lion what ever India beat SL 2 -1 in CB with 1 tie which india should have won because of 1 less ball bowled with 1 run to get. India lost to Aus 3-1 meanwhile SL beat Aus 3 times lost 3 times. Dont blabber please.

  • khurram on March 20, 2012, 18:07 GMT

    well played by BD. infact they were more consistent than others in this tournment. yes they lost to pak but that was some magical bowling by ajmal & gul which cant happen in each game like we saw it vs India. their top & midlle order performed in all games. bowling was good. never let other go out of sight. pak won from them due to some magical bowling which can not happen in all games. vs india bowling not upto mark. batting top plays middle fail . & with india bowling weak & may be tendulkars slow 100 was the major reason in that defeat but 1 must admit that BD is only consistent performer this time & may well take title.

  • Muthuvel on March 20, 2012, 18:06 GMT

    BD played well, no miss givings they beat us inspite of Tenders ton and they now beat SL, so they are a good team and can beat any team. I expect them to win Asia cup the momentum is certainly with them.

  • Saad on March 20, 2012, 17:58 GMT

    great work by bangladesh...i expected da same from dem in da world cup last year but dey disappointed hugely...nw i hope dey don't beat us in da final hahaha

  • Dummy4 on March 20, 2012, 17:58 GMT

    shakib is the best player he has proved it again!!!!!!!!!!

  • Dummy4 on March 20, 2012, 17:57 GMT

    Bangladesh meet pakistan in the final while srilanka meet india at the airport

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