When Bangladesh were busy celebrating their win over New Zealand in the do-or-die Group A encounter on Friday at Sophia Gardens in the 2017 Champions Trophy, former England captain and one of the commentators in the tournament, Nasser Hussain had tagged the Tigers as “Mighty Bangladesh”. Such praise from the England legend touched the cricket-mad Bangladesh fans who heard it live on television that night.
Nasser was spot on as the Tigers had just defeated a higher-ranked opponent in alien conditions to keep alive their hope of qualifying for the semi-finals. The Tigers' wish of qualifying for the semi-finals eventually came true as England defeated title-contender Australia to send the Aussies crashing out of the tournament. This is the first time the men in red and green progressed to the last four in an ICC event.
The Bangladesh cricketers and fans are literally living their dream now, a dream that started taking shape when the side qualified for the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time in history in 2015. Since that event two years ago, Bangladesh elevated themselves to new heights.
The Tigers locked horns with big opponents one after another and rather than targeting “a respectable defeat”, the side moved out from their shell and made sure of going all-out for victory.
One by one, the Tigers beat Pakistan, India, South Africa, England and Sri Lanka to enter the Champions Trophy as the world's No 6 ODI side.
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Captain Mashrafe bin Mortaza in action against the Kiwis DHAKA TRIBUNE
It was team effort on most occasions that enabled Bangladesh to write their incredible story in recent times. However, one can hardly overlook the effort from the “fantastic five” in the shape of Mashrafe bin Mortaza, Shakib al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah.
The quintet are also referred to as the pillars of the team, bringing a combined experience of 845 ODIs to the dressing room. And when this vast experience got intertwined with courage and fearless attitude from the youngsters in the team, it resulted in fabulous victories.
Credit must also go to Bangladesh head coach Chandika Hathurusingha. There have been massive controversies over his strategies, selection of the team and treatment towards some players, but at the end of the day, the former Sri Lanka cricketer has indeed lifted the side's morale. To add to that, Hathurusingha has injected positive aggression among his charges.
The 48-year old has clear intentions of imitating the model followed by Sri Lanka in 1996. In the mid 90s, the Lankans rose as a power in international cricket. Besides winning the '96 World Cup, the Island nation had also produced players who achieved success in the intervening years. Sri Lanka soon established themselves in Test cricket, beating most oppositions who toured the island.
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Tigers head coach Chandika Hathurusingha talks with Sabbir Rahman during training at Kennington Oval last month DHAKA TRIBUNE
However, to attain such ambitions, the BCB will also need to play a vital role. According to Hathurusingha, the board has been providing everything the coach is asking for at the moment for the betterment of the team. But then again, there is a debate that the governing body of cricket in the country is getting carried away by the success of the national team and overlooking grass-roots development.
Occasions have many in the recent past where quality and competitiveness were missing from domestic cricket while several controversies raised eyebrows. Such incidents were addressed by the board but only after much deliberation.
Bangladesh are now eagerly waiting to contest their maiden semi-final in an ICC event, scheduled for Thursday at Edgbaston, hoping to qualify for the grand finale.
With that said, keeping aside all the recent successes, one can only hope that they will continue in this path and hold onto the good times in future when the five pillars of the team will near their retirement date.