ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
World Cup 2011
'Reaching quarters not difficult' - Shakib
February 8, 2011
Shakib Al Hasan, the Bangladesh captain, has said it is not difficult for his team to qualify for the World Cup quarter-finals and they could even go further. "We have been playing good cricket for the last 15 months, and if we qualify for the second round, why not think of something big," Shakib said. "We have to win at least four matches to win a place in the second round. It is not difficult. I think we are capable of booking a place in the second round."
Bangladesh will go in to the World Cup ranked among the top eight teams in ODIs, and have the advantage of playing all their group games at home. Their No. 8 ICC ranking is justification of their recent form; they won two home series in 2010, beating Zimbabwe 3-1 and New Zealand 4-0, and pushed England close in an away series, losing 2-1.
While Bangladesh have been giant-killers in past World Cups, beating India and South Africa in 2007, and Pakistan in 1999, their most experienced player, Mohammad Ashraful, says this time the side is firmly aiming at reaching the quarter-finals rather than looking for a few upsets.
"Things are now very different to what it was in 2007," Ashraful, who will take part in his third World Cup in the 2011 tournament, said. "In that World Cup, we were hoping for an upset or two, but this time around we are firmly aiming for the quarter-finals. There is a significant change in the mentality."
Shakib, though, said there has not been any drastic change in the way his side sees themselves. "I don't feel that there is anything special in terms of attitude," he said. "Ever since I started playing cricket, I have been playing to win, and I play with the same mentality now, whoever the opposition."
Three victories may be enough for Bangladesh to go past the group stage, since four out of seven teams qualify from each group. Two of their matches will be against Associate teams Ireland and Netherlands, in which they will be favourites. They will also be eyeing fixtures against West Indies, who have slipped below them in the ODI rankings, at Mirpur, and England in Chittagong, while upsets against India and South Africa are not off the cards.
Bangladesh have done enough to have lost the underdog tag, but with that, and the fact that they are joint hosts for the tournament, comes added pressure. Shahriar Nafees, who will be playing his second World Cup, said the team was confident of dealing with it. "People handle pressure in different ways; some thrive under it, some play their best when they don't have it," he said. "But there is a stern belief within this side because we are finally winning. We know that at home we are considerably tough opposition."
While Bangladesh's surprise success in the 2006-07 World Cup gave cricket a boost in the country, it was not until the last two years that the results improved. In the period between the last World Cup and the end of 2008, they won just five out of 34 ODIs. Since the start of 2009, though, they have maintained a win/loss ratio of 1.00 in 46 matches.
Ashraful points to a victory over Sri Lanka in January 2009, in a tri-nation tournament, as the turning point in Bangladesh's fortunes. After fast bowlers Mashrafe Mortaza and Rubel Hossain had skittled out Sri Lanka for 147, Ashraful and Shakib had put together a century partnership to help Bangladesh recover from 11 for 3, the latter making an unbeaten 92.
"During that game, I had a feeling things were changing," says Ashraful. "Previously we were happy just competing with the big teams, but that day there was a feeling prevalent that we will be able to beat the big teams if we played to our true potential." Ashraful's own form has been on a downward spiral since that series and, after averaging just 14.66 in the first half of 2010, he found himself dropped for the series against New Zealand and given just one match in the one against Zimbabwe. He was quick to acknowledge the recent success of the team has been built on their younger players, saying "there are other match-winners coming through."
Nafees is another player who, like Ashraful, has struggled to live up to his early promise, and, after signing with the ICL kept him out of international cricket for a year, has only played four ODIs in the last two years. He said the development of Bangladesh cricket is an on-going process and previous captains have added to it as well. "It is like a relay race," Nafees said. "[Habibul] Bashar and his team had bought the team to a certain level and Shakib is now carrying it on. We are moving forward, that is unquestionable."
Bangladesh will kick off the World Cup with a home fixture against India on February 19.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.