Was this the best the Tigers had to offer?
Besides a few ardent and fanatical supporters of the Tigers, chances are that if you had asked people to reason, think, and then predict whether this Bangladesh team would qualify for the semi finals of the World Cup at the start of the tournament, they would have, regretfully but realistically, said no.
Sure, they would mumble about giving a fight, and the progress Bangladesh has made as a cricketing nation, and about the experience that our core players bring to the table.
They would be correct with all those points.
However, none of those above points guarantee qualification to the semis by any means.
This year’s World Cup had a different format, with every team playing each other. There were no brackets, no groups, no sneaking in to the quarter final stage by getting an upset win or two.
No, the new format almost guaranteed that the top teams, those which showed consistency, would be the ones to go on and qualify, taking one of the four available spots for the semi-finals.
Now whether this new format is everyone’s cup of tea is a different matter altogether. There’s something charming about upsets, and the majority of neutrals like a good David and Goliath story. As mentioned previously, this World Cup minimized the chances.
However, new format or not, this did not stop teams from dreaming about qualification. Despite the ICC ODI rankings being a more reliable barometer than ever before about the qualification chances of teams, it wouldn’t be much of a tournament if teams just shrugged their shoulders and accepted their fate as not being good enough to compete over nine games in order to achieve qualification.
Bangladesh, indeed, was one such team, and its hopes were magnified tenfold after its convincing and highly impressive opening victory against a South African side which, while missing some key players, are always considered to be a formidable opponent -- not to mention, they were a much higher-ranked team.
Bangladesh, and indeed its fans around the world, also had a chip on their shoulders after comments made by former New Zealand player Brendon McCullum, who predicted that Bangladesh would win only one game in this WC campaign, and would also go on to lose against Afghanistan, stating that the only team they would beat were the Sri Lankan team.
Thus, this team had something to prove in its very second match against Brendon’s New Zealand, which turned out to be a nail-biter, and one perhaps that Bangladesh could have and should have won if cooler heads prevailed at key moments in the match.
A crushing defeat to England was a reminder of the reason the rankings existed, and why certain teams occupied the spots they did. However, a wash-out against Sri Lanka -- rued by all Bangladeshi fans as a loss of a point -- and a spectacular and convincing victory against the West Indies rejuvenated the nation, and people were back to doing permutations and combinations, dreaming once again of this team in the semi-finals.
Since then, however, things have been as expected.
Despite valiant efforts against Australia and India, the two best teams of the tournament, they fell short. England, which looked shaky for a brief period, remembered that they were among the top sides in the tournament and played accordingly, leaving Bangladesh with no chance to qualify.
However, it was the final match against Pakistan that, perhaps over any other, showcased that Bangladesh, no longer an inexperienced team, had yet to mature.
Although it was a dead rubber, the Tigers were woefully mediocre, especially in the field which for much of the tournament remained the team’s most glaring weakness.
While Bangladesh must be commended for competing throughout the tournament, such was not the case against Pakistan where they offered little resistance and were blown away.
However, Bangladesh is no longer a team that should be content from just competing. It requires an upgrade in mentality, one which needs to convert the close matches from losses to wins.
We as fans of the Tigers continue to rue missed opportunities and close encounters but one cannot continue to be on the wrong side of these predicaments -- it is high time for a turnaround.
Ultimately, despite all the promise and all the media hype and all the fanfare and aspirations of reaching the semis, Bangladesh finished eighth. Only two teams finished below them.
While the position may not show the bigger picture, the question must be asked: Is this really what a successful World Cup campaign of an experienced team aspiring to make the next step in its progress looks like?
AHM Mustafizur Rahman is an Editorial Assistant at Dhaka Tribune.