Mahmudul targets last four finish at U-19 World Cup
Bangladesh Under-19 captain Mahmudul Hasan has set his sights on a last four finish at the World Cup, beginning in New Zealand from January 15. "You can't go into a mission without setting a target," he said. "Our target is to make it to the last four in the World Cup, which we are capable of."
Mahmudul said the main difference between the previous U-19 squad and the present one was that there wasn't a visible age gap between players, with the current team comprising players all around the same age. "We have been given the opportunity to grow as a team and therefore the team spirit is excellent," he said. "We know each other really well and there is great camaraderie.
"We have a strong fielding side. The batting has come together nicely. If I have to comment on the weaknesses, I guess we have a lot of room for improvement in the pace bowling area."
The Bangladesh U-19 managed impressive performances in 2009, winning home series against Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and England and clinching the ODI series against England in July. Coach Minhajul Abedin believed even though they were unfamiliar with conditions in New Zealand, the trip to England should hold them in good stead.
"For the last one month or so the conditions at home have been similar," Abedin said. "It has been chilly and the teams have struggled with dew in the ongoing tri-nation tournament. In the last tournament we played in Sri Lanka, the wickets had grass although the weather was really humid and sultry.
"Our goal is to reach the last four. We have not managed to do that in past events and therefore it is not a bad target to set and something we can achieve. I say this because from what I have seen so far we are probably at the standard of the top four teams in terms of strength. There is not a big difference."
He picked out Mahmudul, opener Anamul Haque and legspinner Shabbir Rahman as the key performers, who could help them book a semi-final berth. "The three will do well at any level. I am also excited with the fact that we are taking two specialist legspinners to New Zealand (Shabbir and Nur Hossain). As a part of the strategy, we may even open the bowling in New Zealand a la Dipak Patel in 1992. I have a lot of faith in this team.
"The core group has remained together and we have had some very impressive performances along the way. If I have to be critical then I would say that we are 90% there."
Bangladesh will look to improve on their U-19 World Cup record, having finished Plate winners in 1997-98 and 2003-04. They have been paired alongside Papua New Guinea (PNG), Pakistan and West indies in Group D, and begin their campaign against PNG on January 16 in Palmerston North.