Let one begin by saying that the tag of minnows doesn’t really begin to do justice to Bangladesh. Forget all their struggles, for what is worth remembering most are their victories over India and South Africa in the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
While the men in blue were sent packing, the Proteas were only saved because of the Super Eight format which allowed them to recover from the setback. Nevertheless it was an imposing performance and one which won’t allow any team to rest easy when they face up to the co-hosts in their own backyard this time around.
Of course, they are in the same group as India and South Africa, and those two sides will only be too wary of the risk inherent. And if they need any reminders, cricketers participating in this tournament only need to recall the fate of New Zealand earlier on in the season. The 4-0 scoreline alone didn’t raise eyebrows, for it was almost always thought that somehow the Kiwis will bounce back and take the ODI series. It was the manner in which they capitulated which marked not only the downfall of their cricket but alternatively also foretold the rise of the Bangladeshis. In any competition here on, they stand on level pegging with teams that have it in them to pull more than a surprise.
Yet what separates them still is their inability to challenge for the ultimate prize. They may be considered unlucky in the sense that had they been drawn in Group A, they would have surely seen themselves making it to the knock-outs at the cost of New Zealand again. Because being in the group they are, teams will be extra careful when facing them. India, South Africa and England are rank professional sides, different from when they last played in a World Cup four years ago and any slip ups will be the least considered possibility. West Indies continue to be mercurial but that alone puts them ahead of Bangladesh. It is not to say though that they should already be packing, no. A precise concoction of carefully laid-out pitches and some fine spin bowling can yet unfold into unanticipated events.
It can be said here that Bangladesh are a cut above the rest of the lowly sides and that is not down to their Test status alone. But there is another team that has done enough in the last four years to be given some respect, if not the same amount, and that is Ireland. Upsetting Pakistan in the West Indies, and also beating Bangladesh in the Super Eights, was their ticket to the international stage and they haven’t let any of their fans down, never letting the consistency in their play fall.
This in turn has seen their ranking maintained in the ICC ODI lists at eleven, though they still had to qualify. They did so without minimum fuss, winning the qualifiers in 2009 and will now be looking forward to playing their first ever ODI under lights.
The warm-up match against New Zealand saw them give hefty chase of a huge target and it is believed by many that they stand capable enough of causing more hiccups than anticipated. Along with Bangladesh, there are now two teams in Group B that can do so, making it the ‘group of death’. That this tag hasn’t gone to Zimbabwe surely must pinch them a bit, for they have been on a path to recovery ever since political infighting took more than a toll on their cricket. It was being said that 2011 will be the year when we would see them return to the Test fold.
A high ranking of nine was testimonial to that progress, if only some, and that Sri Lanka and India were keen on playing ODIs there again was all part of it. Yet when it comes to the star attraction, the World Cup, it really pains to say that Ireland have a better chance of causing an upset than they do. If anything, it only shows that their performances here in the sub-continent will go a long way in deciding whether they do get that Test status back.
Never mind Zimbabwe though, there is still a minnow in Group A very much capable of shaking some boots. Canada retain an excellent batting line-up, one that grows in confidence in these conditions and the way they ran England close in the warm-up only signifies that. It can also be said that after a long tour down under, Andrew Strauss and his men weren’t really bothered too much about this inconsequential match. But that is not Canada’s problem is it? They were 28 for five at one stage and yet lost only by seventeen runs chasing 244. That tells you more about their spirit than ability.
And talking of spirit, one might as well talk about Kenya. They don’t really play too much international cricket, just some at the associate levels. Yet they have a better success rate than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in ICC tournaments. Most of it is down to their 2003 World Cup performance where they reached the semi-finals. But don’t let that make you forget what they did to the West Indies in 1996 here in the sub-continent.
In that sense, there is nothing much to say about Netherlands and they will be rolled over by another batsman like Herschelle Gibbs this time around, looking to hit six sixes in an over. But if cricket – and World Cup – history has taught us anything, it is that anyone can win on their day.
© Cricket World 2011