India facing a 'changed Bangladesh'

It says much for the progress of Bangladesh in recent years that their senior players and coaches keep being asked a very similar question: is this the biggest moment in the history of the team?

That a reasonable answer to that question - whether it was asked ahead of the World Cup quarter-final in 2015, when they defeated England in a Test in Dhaka or Sri Lanka in a Test in Colombo, when they won home ODI series against Pakistan, India and South Africa, or now, when they find themselves in the semi-final of a global tournament for the first time - is "yes" confirms the impression that, as their captain Mashrafe Mortaza put it, their "graph is pretty good. We're coming up."

While most would accept that they have enjoyed a little fortune on the way to the semi-final - rain came to their rescue against Australia - the general impression remains: Bangladesh are a growing force in international cricket. Their future looks bright.

There is no doubt that India are favourites in this semi-final, though. Strong favourites. It's not just that they have a hugely experienced batting and bowling line-up, it's that they have a huge amount of experience of playing in such high-profile games.

But as if Pakistan's victory over England had not already exposed the folly of presumption, Bangladesh have a record that demands respect. They have produced the two highest partnerships of the tournament to date (Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah added 224 for the fifth wicket against New Zealand, while Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim added 166 for the third wicket against England), they have recorded four of the nine highest individual scores (including three centuries) and they have won two of the last three ODIs between these sides.

Most of all, they have a skillful, varied attack that, even on the fine batting surface anticipated at Edgbaston, provides Mashrafe with options.

For all those reasons, Bangladesh should be a far more confident side than the one brushed aside by India in the World Cup quarter-final. Now they know they can win big games and fight back from tough positions. Now they know they belong at this level. India, Mashrafe said, are going to find a "changed" opponent.

"Winning against England [in the 2015 World Cup] helped us a lot. We lost our next match, against New Zealand in New Zealand, but on a tough wicket we scored almost 300 and the team took a boost from that.

"After that, we beat Pakistan, India and South Africa. Yes, it was at home, but we gained more self-respect by beating those sort of teams.

"So this team has changed. Over the last two or three years, we've changed a lot, especially in the dressing rooms. Now we play with freedom. The coaches support the players and don't drop them. These sort of things actually change teams."

Mashrafe took particular confidence from the victory over New Zealand. With 20 overs of the New Zealand innings remaining, they were 152 for 2 with Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson well set. A total well in excess of 300 looked likely.

"That's the thing," he explained. "We never give up. They batted really well, but we came back strongly. And once you have played at your best, you know how well you can play and things can change. I know, on our day, we can do anything."

Might the pressure of the occasion prove a burden? Mashrafe accepted his side is in uncharted territory here, but, like his coach the previous day, attempted to alleviate the burden.

"It is our first time in our life in a semi-final; that is a fact," he said. "And if you look at it as a semi-final, the pressure will be very hard. But if you think of it as just another match, the pressure will come a lot easier. And India has more pressure than us as the population is huge there and people love cricket a lot. Both teams have a lot of expectations."

For a Bangladesh team of which very little was expected not so long ago, such hopes are another sign of progress. Few would bet against this being the first of many semi-final appearances over the coming years.