Pain no bar for this band of World Cup dreamers from Bangladesh

Most of their premier players are carrying major injuries, but none of them have asked for time off as the team looks to make a big splash in the UK

None of the injured players, it's understood, have asked for time off  •  Raton Gomes/BCB

None of the injured players, it's understood, have asked for time off  •  Raton Gomes/BCB

"Your hamstring is f*****."
That was Bangladesh team physio Thihan Chandramohan to captain Mashrafe Mortaza, describing the latter's left hamstring. It looks and feels like a Grade 2 tear, with the affected area having swollen, all red and pulpy. Mashrafe knows, he has years of experience of this sort of thing. But despite having carried the injury since the May 17 Ireland tri-nation final against West Indies, he has refused to get a scan done.
In their last game against Afghanistan in Southampton, Mashrafe bowled his seven overs off a shorter run-up. In the previous matches, he bowled his last spells with similarly short run-ups. When he tries to stop a ball in the field, he often ends up crawling on the ground.
Mashrafe's efforts sum up the Bangladesh players' determination, in the face of extreme pain, to make the most of this World Cup - what could be the last for several of the greats.
Among those who regularly switch places with him on the field are Tamim Iqbal and Mahmudullah. Tamim got hit on his left hand a couple of days before Bangladesh's opening game against South Africa. After the initial concern, he shrugged it off. Mahmudullah carried a shoulder injury into the World Cup, and now has a Grade 1 tear in his right calf. He was seen hobbling around in crutches after that, but with an eight-day gap between their last game, against Afghanistan, and the next, against India on July 2, Mahmudullah hasn't given up hoping to get on the field.
Injuries have affected their careers at some stage or the other, but they have simply knuckled down this time
Mushfiqur Rahim, who is on the mend after a rib injury, also got hit on his fingers during nets in Taunton ahead of the West Indies game. It was one of the most gruelling Bangladesh net sessions in recent memory, with the batsmen focused on facing short balls only, bowled or thrown at them from close up, to counter the West Indies bowlers' game plan. Their opponents didn't disappoint, and the Bangladesh batsmen, having prepared well, scored at more than 13 an over against short or short-of-length deliveries in that game.
The list goes on. Shakib Al Hasan had only just recovered from back spasms coming into the World Cup. Mohammad Saifuddin has missed one game because back trouble, and is known to have used pain-killers before playing some of the games. Mehidy Hasan played the Southampton game less than 24 hours after being thwacked on the side of his head by a stray shot while speaking to reporters groundside.
ESPNcricinfo understands that at no stage were any of the players forced to take the field by anyone within the team management or the Bangladesh Cricket Board. The usual protocol has been carried out after every injury. At the end of them, each player has wanted to play. That's been a non-negotiable with each of them. Keeping the campaign - a semi-final spot is not out of reach - on track has been the big objective. The belief that even one injury-enforced change could bring out big tweaks within the XI has driven them, one senior player confirming that after every injury, they have only told the physio to reduce the pain, nothing more.
"We have waited four years for this World Cup, so everyone wants to keep the campaign on track," the player said. "Nobody wants to give up at this stage. If it was any other series, some of us probably would have taken a break to recover from the injuries, but here we realise that we need to keep this going.
"Everyone has a sense that the other person is carrying an injury too, but that's about it. We don't really talk about it."
Bangladesh had secured a direct entry to the World Cup after getting in to No. 8 just in time for the cut-off date in 2017, forcing West Indies and Afghanistan to tread the route in through the qualifiers in 2018 in Zimbabwe. For Bangladesh, the last four years have been of progress, and many of the players in the World Cup squad were integral parts of that. Some of the premier players - including some carrying injuries - are closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. It is hardly surprising, then, that they aren't giving up.
"It has been emotional to see how they have pulled it all together," a BCB official said on condition of anonymity. "Nobody has made a big deal about their injuries. They have simply done what's needed and moved on. It is a World Cup, which understandably means they are all keen to play. But it is more than that. Injuries have affected their careers at some stage or the other, but they have simply knuckled down this time.
"One look at Mashrafe, Mahmudullah, Tamim and Mushfiq tells you what they are going through, but you just see them patching up, taping up, taking their medications or injections."
What has also stood out is the calmness in the dressing room. It wasn't so earlier, but now every fall of wicket or batting collapse, or an opposition batting charge, is dealt with maturely. There's no panic, as Shakib Al Hasan said in one of his press conferences. "Before, there used to be a tense atmosphere but now it is all calm," he had said. "I think this is a big change in our dressing room. You can see the coaching staff relaxed, some listening to the radio, but generally staying calm. I think it has made a huge difference."
Think back. In 1999, there was Gordon Greenidge's infamous exit. The 2003 campaign ended with Khaled Mashud being sacked as captain. The 2007 edition, more successful from Bangladesh's point of view than the previous ones, ended with infighting among senior players. In 2011, there was the cloud of Mashrafe's axing, and being bowled out for 58 by West Indies didn't help. The last time, there was a nothing-to-lose attitude after a poor 2014, and a quarter-final appearance was an acceptable result. But this time, the dreams are bigger and the results have been positive.
Many of the players have spent long periods on the massage table or with the physios, all to ensure there is a happy ending this time around. The commitment gets two thumbs up. Now for the last two group-stage games and, who knows what awaits them.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84