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Cricket news - Ready reckoner: Bangladesh

With Afghanistan taking away their underdogs tag, can Bangladesh quietly flourish with what is their best team ever?

Why should you support them?

Quarterfinals in World Cup 2015. Semifinals in Champions Trophy 2017. But Bangladesh aren't quite the toast of the cricketing world now. Afghanistan are; their accelerated rise devouring the Bangladesh story altogether.

Afghanistan's is an inspirational story but Bangladesh are far from being an also-ran in this underdog meshwork. They deserved more time under the sun, more time as the underdogs who tried. But can it be a good thing in 2019? Perhaps there's never been a better time to back them. This World Cup will see them field their best-ever team, some of which will be lost to famous retirements soon after, so there's that added sentiment of farewell to go with skills this time around. And with all the eyes on Afghanistan and their upsets anyway, Bangladesh can quietly flourish.

So what's their gameplan?

Bangladesh don't have a wrist spinner in their squad, and it tells a story. When teams have moved on to fresh templates for ODI cricket, Bangladesh bring with them the old-world strategy of choking the opposition with finger spin, of openers prioritizing safety over opportunity against the new ball, and of middle-overs being more about finding the gaps than clearing the fielders. How effective this non-conformist tactic turn out, especially on the flat pitches on, will be an interesting watch.

Which player should you get excited about?

Soumya Sarkar

He wasn't even 22 when he batted at No. 3 for Bangladesh in the 2015 World Cup, and now returns to the same tournament as a player who could have done so much more. Since that amazing run against Pakistan, India and South Africa in a home season in 2015, Sarkar has struggled for runs and consistency. He was even dropped after the 2018 Asia Cup but now finds himself back in the fray, set to open the batting alongside Tamim Iqbal in a World Cup. Not to forget his medium pace, which can be a quiet cooperator in a World Cup obsessed with all-rounders.

Which of their fixtures should you not miss?

India are the nerve centre of cricket, Bangladesh want to be one. Their fans take defeats the hardest on social media, more so if they come against India. It was them who beat Bangladesh in the quarterfinals in 2015 and again in the semifinals in 2017, so there's that much-needed bitterness in this growing rivalry between the two neighbours. Add to that the social media clash of two fervent sets of fans. This World Cup encounter at Edgbaston, coming late in the league stage, could be every bit worth it.

Additionally, watch out for Bangladesh taking on Afghanistan in Southampton. Who is the giant here, and who the killer?

What are their chances?

This isn't a World Cup for upsets. Winning one odd game against a higher-ranked opposition might not do the trick. That's not to say that Bangladesh cannot beat the more fancied teams; the question is can they do it enough number of times?

"We have played six finals and lost," Mortaza told Cricbuzz about the "mental barrier" that Bangladesh need to cross. At least a semifinal finish in a World Cup such as this will be a step forward in the right direction.

Squad

Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim(wk), Mahmudullah, Sabbir Rahman, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mashrafe Mortaza(c), Mehidy Hasan, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Mohammad Mithun, Abu Jayed, Mosaddek Hossain

Schedule

June 2: v South Africa at Kennington Oval, London [D]

June 5: v New Zealand at Kennington Oval, London [D/N]

June 8: v England at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff [D]

June 11: v Sri Lanka at County Ground, Bristol [D]

June 17: v West Indies at Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton [D]

June 20: v Australia at Trent Bridge, Nottingham [D]

June 24: v Afghanistan at The Rose Bowl, Southampton [D]

July 2: v India at Edgbaston, Birmingham [D]

July 5: v Pakistan at Lord's, London [D]

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