GROUP B (Bangladesh, England, India, Ireland, Netherlands, South Africa, West Indies)
Team - BANGLADESH
ODI Rank - 8
ODI Rating - 66
Last World Cup - Super-8
Finals Appearances - none
Best in a World Cup - Super-8 ('07)
Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Shahriar Nafees, Raqibul Hasan, Mohammad Ashraful, Mushfiqur Rahim, Naeem Islam, Mahmudullah, Abdur Razzak, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul Islam, Nazmul Hossain, Suhrawadi Shuvo.
Strength - Home conditions, spinners
Weakness - Inconsistent performers
Bangladesh will enter this world cup as the dark horses and will try to ride their abilities and luck to cause one or many upsets in the group stages. After losing just one of their last 8 home games, B'desh will count as a strong contender for making it through to the knockout phase (if you ignore the fact that they only beat Zimbabwe and a hapless NZ in the recent past) given that they will play all their games at home.
The Bangladeshi squad is built around 3 major qualities - strong opening, handy all rounders and a huge academy of spin bowlers!
Tamim Iqbal will mostly open along with Imrul Kayes, followed by Junai Siddique. Tamim Iqbal, the young southpaw has grown in form and confidence over the last 4 years and has added a range of aggressive strokes through the off side in the duration to his armoury. He was the one who washed out any hopes of India's comeback the previous time B'desh met India in a World Cup, causing one of the biggest shocks of the league phase. Imrul Kayes will want to make the most of the opportunity given to him now, and play the supporter's role. Junaid Siddique is the more assuring, technically better off batsmen one would have to look out for. The three left-handers would also cause the bowling side to adjust their bowling a bit, I don't think there is any other team with 3 top order left handers. SL and WI used to have such a left-handed line up, and not many teams were up to the task of dismissing their line up that easily!
The middle order would consist of Raqibul Hasan or Ashraful. Raqibul has been more dependable than Ashraful in the recent times. Ashraful, once thought of the next-big-thing from Bangladesh, has only two or three memorable innings in the past few years, and one of them came in T20, so, doesn't count. Both have the talent, but Ashraful is more likely to gift his wicket than Raqibul. Mushfiqur Rahim will be the wicketkeeper, handy with the bat, and can up the ante in the final overs (if B'desh can play till then).
The mainstay of the Bangladeshi team is their league of spinners. Captain Shakib al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Abdur Razzak and Suhrawadi Shuvo are all capable of finding a spot in the XI. Shakib, Razzaka and Shuvo are all left-arm orthodox bowlers. Bot, Razzak and Shuvo flight the ball more than Shakib, who has more of a slinging action. It is tough to opponents to play with a healthy run rate against these spinners, who have their own variations despite almost all being left handed bowlers. Muhmudullah provides a bit of variation, being right handed. If Naeem Islam is given the opportunity as an all-rounder, he too would come on to bowl. So would Md Ashraful. Spin is Bangladesh's weapon. Maybe, the only weapon.
B'desh will play two fast bowlers, Shafiul Islam and Nazmul Hossain. Their main job would be to get the ball old and hand it over to the spinners. As simple as that. In isolation, both are capable wicket takers, but only Shafiul has the pace to cause any trouble to the batsmen. he has a fast, singing action and puts in a lot of effort to try and extract bounce on unhelping surfaces. Rubel Hossain is the other seamer in the squad, having dropped the crown-favourite Moshrafe Mortaza keeping in mind his current health conditions, the history of his health conditions and probability of him injuring himself again. In the last few series before the world cup, either he hasn't played them at all, or got injured in the first game of the series. And when he does the latter, B'desh win the series. So, B'desh selectors are taking the chance of winning after eliminating that lucky charm.
Bangladesh will commence the World Cup with the opening game vs India, followed by games vs Ireland, WI, England, Nederlands and South Africa. For a team of Bangladesh's stature, almost all games are as important as it can be for them to move on to the next round. The game against West Indies will be the world cup's most important game. The winner of the game is more likely to move on to knock out stage over the other.
Bangladesh couldn't have had a better preparation and build up to the world cup, than 2 series hosted at home and winning both of them. But, they should not forget that they lost most series before that - in Sri Lanka, England. This time, they are a serious contender for the open QF spot, and it will not be surprising if they can make it. How loudly will the Bangla Tigers roar this time around? Will they reach a stage where they might have to play outside their home? Will they throw more surprises than what one can expect? They are capable, but will they show it?
The biggest event in Bangla's cricketing history will like them to shine in it too. Comet Feb 19, and we would all know how that unfolds!