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Dhaka Tribune

From hope to heartache

Trying to make sense of Bangladesh's roller-coaster ride in the World Cup

Update : 28 Oct 2023, 11:33 AM

Bangladesh cricket has been on a roller-coaster ride in recent years. From constantly doing well in bilateral series to being on the verge of another World Cup failure, the team has seen it all. 

Not long ago, under the leadership of Tamim Iqbal, the team appeared promising and well-equipped to make a significant impact in the World Cup. However, internal disputes, a battle of egos, and a shift in dynamics have seen Bangladesh tumble from dreams of victory to the near bottom of the points table in the World Cup.

As the Bangladeshi team embarked on their journey to India for the 2023 Cricket World Cup, the prevailing sentiment among many was to set their sights on reaching the semifinals. Naturally, in a tournament structured with a league phase followed by knockouts, advancing to the next stage had to be the primary objective. 

The vision was reflected in captain Shakib's words before moving to India. On the other hand, coach Chandika Hathurusingha pragmatically cautioned those harbouring dreams of witnessing Bangladesh hoist the World Cup, urging them to "wake up" to reality. Yet, four matches into the competition, the need to confront the harsh reality is becoming increasingly evident as this World Cup is metamorphosing into a nightmarish ordeal.

Under the captaincy of Tamim Iqbal, Bangladesh cricket was enjoying a period of relative success. The team secured impressive victories against South Africa and India in bilateral series and stood 3rd in the ODI Super League. These achievements generated optimism that Bangladesh was poised to achieve something great in the upcoming World Cup.

However, things started to change behind the scenes, a brewing conflict between two stalwarts of Bangladesh cricket, Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, became palpable. The feud between the two senior players became evident in 2020; from then on, it was consistently on the news. 

The internal dispute peaked when Tamim took a shocking retirement before the Asia Cup 2023. However, just a few days later, he reversed his decision after meeting with the prime minister. Later, he was omitted from the 2023 World Cup squad, an exclusion he attributed to his refusal to bat in the middle order. Shakib denied his role in the exclusion and criticized Tamim for prioritizing personal interests over the team's.

The public exchange of words between Shakib and Tamim, especially in interviews with T-sports, revealed a lack of maturity and professionalism. Their public spats undermined team unity and spread negativity in the squad. 

Instead of handling disagreements privately and professionally, their actions contributed to a hostile atmosphere in the Bangladesh cricketing camp. The cricket board was also unable to sensibly address or effectively resolve the escalating tensions between the two senior players, further exacerbating the situation.

Tamim's dropping has had a disastrous impact on the Bangladesh team. Without their best batsman, the Bangladesh top order has been completely exposed. The team has lost four of its first five matches in the World Cup and is on the verge of elimination.

To excel on the field, players not only need to be physically prepared but also mentally resilient. A healthy, supportive dressing room environment is crucial for fostering the right mindset and unity. 

Unfortunately for Bangladesh, this vital element has been lacking, and the repercussions are becoming painfully evident in the ongoing World Cup. Toxicity within the team, fueled by internal conflicts and unprofessional conduct, has eroded the players' mental fortitude and unity, resulting in subpar performances. 

Bangladesh's ongoing struggles in the World Cup should serve as a poignant reminder that a healthy team culture and mental fortitude are fundamental to achieving success on the international stage.

The dream of winning the World Cup has rapidly turned into a nightmare, and the team's position at the near bottom of the points table, having lost four out of five matches, serves as a stark reminder of the damage inflicted by various internal conflicts and unprofessional conduct. 

Bangladesh cricket needs to learn from these incidents and prioritize unity, professionalism, and teamwork to rise from the ashes of this World Cup debacle and chart a path towards future success.

Sheikh Hasin Abrar is a freelance contributor.

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