Heading into the final week of CWC19, Bangladesh were still in the hunt for a semi-final spot. Defeat to India and Pakistan put paid to those hopes and took some sheen of their final position, but victories over South Africa and West Indies proved they can mix it with the best teams in the competition, and deserve to go into future campaigns rated not as outsiders, but contenders.
Had it not been for a washout against Sri Lanka, and a narrow defeat to New Zealand, the Tigers might have put even more pressure on the top four. They competed well too against tournament favourites India, Australia and England, but the gap was still apparent, and in the end this was a tournament more about building to the future than the here and now.
Positives to take home
At the heart of everything good about Bangladesh cricket for the last decade has been Shakib Al Hasan, and the same was true at CWC19. He was phenomenally consistent, passing fifty on seven out of eight occasions, with a lowest score of 41. He more than chipped in with the ball too – with 11 wickets, no spinner claimed more group-stage scalps – underlining his status as the world’s premier all-rounder and staking a claim for the Player of the Tournament prize.
This tournament was about more than one man though. Wicketkeeper/bat Mushfiqur Rahim showed himself to be a white-ball batsman of some class, his runs coming at an average of over 50, while Liton Das’ match-sealing 94* against West Indies will live long in the memory.
With the ball, Mustafizur Rahman enjoyed a breakout campaign – finishing with consecutive five-wicket hauls and 20 wickets to his name – Mohammad Saifuddin claimed 13 wickets, and Mehidy Hasan Miraz was consistently economical. That ‘The Fizz’, at 23, is the oldest of the three, suggests Bangladesh might have found the core of a bowling attack to carry them forward for years to come.
And then there were the fans, perhaps the most vocal and vibrant in the world.
Areas to improve
While the top of the bowling charts was refreshingly replete with new faces, those doing the bulk of the work with the bat had a worryingly familiar ring. As well as Mushfiqur and Shakib, Mahmudullah and Tamim Iqbal completed the quartet of top run scorers. The first three are each 32 or older, and may well not be around at the next World Cup. Tamim, at 30, stands greater chance, though, by his standards, had a lean tournament.
Their talismanic captain Mashrafe Mortaza, while bolstering his reputation as one of international cricket’s standout leaders, had a woeful tournament from a statistical point of view, claiming 1/361 across the competition. His retirement may well come soon.
Who takes over from him, and who will take some of the run-making burden off the fab four is unclear. Das looks one candidate. Soumya Sarkar has the talent to be another, but whether he has the temperament is a different matter.
Bangladesh are looking for a coaching successor too, after parting ways with head honcho Steve Rhodes.
Can we even call The Fizz a rising star anymore? When he burst onto the scene all the way back in 2015, taking 11 wickets in his first two ODIs to underpin a first-ever series win over India, he seemed fully formed, already an attack leader and primed to dominate the international scene for years to come. With rubber wrists and variations to burn, he was rated a sort-of modern-day Sydney Barnes.
But injuries and familiarity have hampered his progress, and his record-breaking CWC19 haul – no Bangladeshi has ever claimed as many wickets in any series – show he was no flash in the pan. He’s a different sort of bowler now, not as otherworldly perhaps, but not a lesser one, with his accuracy and canniness honed, and the weight of a senior position sitting lightly on his shoulders.
2 June: v South Africa, The Oval, London – Bangladesh won by 21 runs
5 June: v New Zealand, The Oval, London – New Zealand won by 2 wickets
8 June: v England, Cardiff Wales Stadium, Cardiff – England won by 106 runs
11 June: v Sri Lanka, County Ground, Bristol – Match abandoned without a ball being bowled
17 June: v West Indies, County Ground, Taunton – Bangladesh won by 7 wickets
20 June: v Australia, Trent Bridge, Nottingham – Australia won by 48 runs
24 June: v Afghanistan, Hampshire Bowl, Southampton – Bangladesh won by 62 runs
2 July: v India, Edgbaston, Birmingham – India won by 28 runs
5 July: v Pakistan, Lord’s, London – Pakistan won by 94 runs