Kolkata: Bangladesh have well and truly grabbed the eyeballs of a lot of people after they stunned World Cup finalists New Zealand in the Champions Trophy and also unexpectedly made it to the semi-finals along with England- their best ever performance in a global tournament so far.
Shakib Al-Hasan and Mahmadullah joined together at the crease to pull off a huge win for Bangladesh from the jaws of defeat. As a matter of fact, history is witness to the fact that it was at this very ground that they had defeated Australia way back in 2005 courtesy a wonderful ton from Mohammad Ashraful supported by the then skipper Habibul Bashar’s fighting 47.
Bashar, who is now a national selector says that the performance of the team in this Champions Trophy would be etched as an inseparable part of their cricket history.
In an interaction with The Times of India on Sunday, he said, “This performance has to be the pinnacle of our cricket history. When this tournament was first held in Bangladesh back in 1998, we didn’t even feature in it. But now, we are in the semi-finals and have come a long way. Everyone knows how obsessed we are about cricket in Bangladesh and this show justifies the faith people have in this team. We have won bilateral series before but doing well in ICC competitions has been our goal,”
Bangladesh though did not start off the tournament on a good note as they lost their opening encounter against hosts England. They were also very much in the back seat against the Australians who were cruising towards a victory before the rains intervened to have the match called off, thus leaving them and the Aussies with a point each.
Bashar acknowledged that rains had a crucial role to play in them going ahead into the next stage of the competition but also hailed the fighting spirit showed by the team when it mattered the most.
“Yes, rains came to our rescue against Australia, but our never-say-die attitude won us the game against Kiwis. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tensed when we were 33 for 4 against New Zealand. But Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah brought all their experience together and ensured a brilliant win,” he said.
Mohammad Ashraful, who was just 21 years old in 2005, played a fantastic knock to register a ton in that terrific win over the Aussies which fetched him the Man-of-the-Match award. His involvement in a crucial 130-run stand with skipper Bashar was pretty similar to the fight shown by Shakib and Mahmadullah in the match against New Zealand.
Ashraful said, “Each run that Shakib and Mahmudullah scored made me recollect that partnership I had with Bashar at the same ground 12 years ago. We didn’t have the best of starts in that game before our partnership took centre-stage. From now on, Bangladesh’s victories won’t ever be termed as upsets as we have shown the wherewithal to win regularly.”
The 44-year old Bashar however stated that the positivity coupled with the self-belief is what has made the team strong. “The current side has players who have been playing together for a few years now and know each other’s game well. There is a lot of positivity in the team ranks and players believe in themselves a lot. There is a healthy mix of youth and experience in our side and skipper Mashrafe Mortaza and coach Chandika Hathurusin-gha have got the best out of the side,” he said.
Both Ashraful and Bashar hoped that Bangladesh put on a good show in the semi-finals as well and keep making everyone proud about their performances. “This team does have the potential to go the distance. But I don’t want to put any pressure on this side and just hope they keep making us proud as they have done so far,” said the 44-year old Bashar.
Bangladesh fought bravely against New Zealand to register a stunning win over the World Cup finalists New Zealand courtesy a record 224 run stand between Shakib Al-Hasan and Mahmadullah. Their move to the semis was further made possible after England beat Australia which knocked the World Champions out of the tournament.
Mashrafe in an interaction with the reporters at the team hotel in Cardiff said, “It’s a big thing for our cricket. It is an opportunity for us but I want to request everybody not to think we will go all the way to win the title.”
He however seemed satisfied with the fact that they made it to the semis. “It’s a tournament of the top eight teams and more challenging than the World Cup. So, to be in the semi-final is itself an achievement for us. It is also a reward for our continued effort towards improving our game,” he said.
Further added Mashrafe, “I think everyone has contributed to what we are today. The whole nation will be with us as they were in our desperate times and good times.”
Bangladesh would meet defending champions India in the semi-final in Birmingham on June 15th.