Bangladesh v Pakistan, World T20 2016, Group 2, Kolkata March 15, 2016

Mashrafe hoping for strong Kolkata support

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Agarkar: Bangladesh will want a bit more from Shakib

If there is one venue in the world that could be home from home for Bangladesh, it is the ground they will begin their Super 10s on Wednesday. Kolkatans speak with a different inflection, and a recent trade embargo means Bangladeshi hilsa no longer makes it into this city's eateries, but still, Bangladesh is elementally tied with Bengal; through shared history, struggle and language.

It is on this common soil that Mashrafe Mortaza hopes to break ground on the next phase of their World T20 campaign. Dharamsala, where Bangladesh played their group stage, was so cold and wet, he said, it almost felt like Irish conditions. Bangladesh haven't played in Kolkata for 25 years, but if Mashrafe gets his wish, this game will feel a little like coming home.

"I think this is a good opportunity to play in this ground," he said. "I don't know if 90,000 people will turn up for tomorrow's game, but we are excited to be playing here and we want to make it memorable. As a Bengali, I can hope that Kolkata will be behind us."

Even for non-Bengalis, Bangladesh have become an easy team to get behind. Over the past 14 months, a distinct brand of cricket has developed around a battery of canny seam bowlers, of whom Mashrafe himself is Exhibit A. Their rise began in ODIs, but has now spread to their T20 game. Having been Asia Cup finalists in the past fortnight, they go into the tournament as dark horses of sorts.

"We were not really good in T20s but now we are playing fearless cricket," Mashrafe said. "We are giving it our best, and all our players have their role. When we do all this together, we know we can win. Our coaches have really helped us."

In a 12-month period populated with happy firsts, Bangladesh got their first T20 century-maker on Sunday, when Tamim Iqbal struck 103 not out against Oman. Mashrafe said his whole top order was poised to deliver in the Super 10s.

"Tamim is in good touch since the last World Cup. Not only Tamim, actually, but all the batsmen are fired up, especially in T20 cricket. In India they can do much better than at home, because the Asia Cup was played on seaming wickets. Tamim and Sabbir are scoring regularly and Soumya is doing it in patches too. I think when the top order does well, the pressure is off the middle order."

If there is a concern in that middle order, it is the relative lack of runs from Mushfiqur Rahim. He has been out in single figures in four of his five most recent outings. Shakib Al Hasan has also been a little quieter than usual with the bat, though he does have a much better string of scores behind him.

"I want everyone to perform but in this format, you don't always get time," Mashrafe said. "Especially for those batting in the middle order who don't get time to get settled in the crease. I think Shakib and Mushfiqur are trying their hardest and they have performed regularly in the recent past.

"Shakib is an important player for us. He has performed under pressure for the last seven to eight years. We can always bounce off ideas from him about this ground as this is where his IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders is based."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ImonG on March 16, 2016, 9:38 GMT

    Well it's a weekday afternoon match. A packed Eden won't be likely. But considering that they are playing against Pakistan, they'll get some support for sure.

  • Rajjjjjja on March 16, 2016, 6:45 GMT

    There will be a lot of support for Pak at Eden today.. Especially for Amir.. Pakistan is unpredictable and can turn a lot of tables when everybody do not seem to give them a chance..

  • ziddu on March 16, 2016, 5:29 GMT

    If Pak gets the batting right, then they are going to win this one easily. BD's bowling will be of concern, as Mustafiqur might not play. Mashrafe is doing more of a containing job. So it all boils down to how Pak bats. If they score 150 batting first, then they are going to win.

  • SamRoy on March 16, 2016, 4:59 GMT

    Whom to support and whom not to support? Is it bugging the Bengali fan in Kolkata? Till 2013 in Dhaka Bangladesh fans were more like 50-50 in India vs Pakistan matches. Since then they have overwhelmingly supported Pakistan. A very famous Ex-Bangladeshi writer said about that on social media. Personally I don't agree with her. Fans should be ready to support whomever they like. It should never be tit-for-tat or even be emotional because of similar background, culture, religion or language. I for one, have been a huge Imran Khan and Wasim Akram fan. Now I am a Md. Amir fan. And I was born in a Bengali family in India though I no longer identify with that label. And I would be rooting for Pakistan not because of tit-for-tat or anything else. Sports is about friendship not animosity. It just that I like Pakistan team more. They have 3 world class bowlers in Amir, Irfan and Riaz. And in batting Umar Akmal, Ahmed Shehzad, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik. BD also has good players.

  • Shamim_araf on March 16, 2016, 4:37 GMT

    Yes.....Kolkata will might support Bangladesh undoubtedly....as we r same Bengali Cultured Nation.Can,t wait 2 see The Match.

  • viraj09 on March 16, 2016, 3:51 GMT

    @HatersAreOrdinary....BD won all it's matches in BD in front of home crowd, this will be a different test for them, so just relax and enjoy cricket!

  •   Mohammad Abdur Razzak on March 16, 2016, 2:13 GMT

    It will be a Bangladesh's match to loose. Present strength differences between BD and Pak are quite apparent in their last 5 face offs. I bet it will be an entertaining encounter but BD should win without any hiccup.

  •   Md.Rezwanul Karim on March 15, 2016, 22:57 GMT

    If Bangladesh beat Pakistan today that will not be a upset as Agarkar said. They are defeating Pakistan since 2015 and now the scoreline is 5-0 since mid 2015. BAN is a way better team comparing with this Pakistan team struggling with batting, fielding and a ordinary bowling unit (without Amir!)..yet at the end of the day they are so called unpredictable..let's see what happens..

  • cooljack_143 on March 15, 2016, 22:05 GMT

    Who ever will cope up with pressure will win. Even if talent is there, it's of no use, as seen in Ind NZ match. For nw , BD looks favorite to win. Pak needs to play extremely well to beat team in form coming from qualifiers . Game on !!!

  • Masking_Tape on March 15, 2016, 21:59 GMT

    Kolkata and KKR fans get behind your man Shakib and his tem!

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