Sports, Cricket

Tigers depart for T20 WC in USA

Published : 15 May 2024 09:24 PM

After a protracted period of speculation and much debate, the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) finally unveiled a 15-man squad for the ICC T20 World Cup 2024 which departed for the United States in the wee hours of Thursday. 

Controversy surrounding selection for major tournaments and bilateral series is a well-trodden path in Bangladeshi cricket, and this USA-bound squad has been no exception, sparking considerable debate amongst pundits and supporters alike.

Team Bangladesh embarks on yet another World Cup campaign shrouded in a sense of cautious optimism. Their record in the competition, since its inauguration in 2007, paints a rather bleak picture. They haven't managed to progress beyond the group stage in any edition, a fact that weighs heavily on the minds of players and fans. Traditionally, the team has expressed pre-tournament goals, even before underwhelming performances. This time, however, a veil of uncertainty hangs over Bangladesh's ambitions for the 2024 World Cup.

Perhaps the recent series against Zimbabwe offered insufficient preparation for the Tigers. The standard of competition may not have been high enough to adequately replicate the intensity and pressure of World Cup matches. If these matches served as a springboard for the upcoming tournament, it's understandable why captain Najmul Hossain Shanto has chosen to keep expectations in check. This muted approach might be a deliberate strategy to avoid raising hopes that could ultimately be dashed.

Shanto's cautious stance might also stem from a desire to manage the team's mentality. The recent series against Zimbabwe offered little in the way of inspiration, and the captain may be keen to ensure the team focuses on the task at hand rather than succumbing to the pressure of lofty expectations.

However, Gazi Ashraf Hossain Lipu, the first Bangladesh cricket captain and current chairman of the selection panel, offered a more optimistic outlook during the squad announcement press conference. Lipu, fondly known as "Lipu bhai" amongst fans, acknowledged the team's limitations but also highlighted their potential.

"Certainly, we have expectations for the team," Lipu told reporters on Tuesday. "We want them to progress beyond the first hurdle, the group stage, and reach the Super 12s. If we can achieve that, then we'll definitely look to go further and challenge ourselves in the knockout stages."

Lipu is a realist. He recognizes the disparity in quality between Bangladesh and teams like South Africa, whom they face in their second World Cup match. "In T20 cricket, our team hasn't yet reached a level where we can confidently predict reaching the semi-finals," Lipu said. "However, anything is possible in this format, a fact that Shanto likely acknowledged when he spoke about taking things one step at a time and focusing on competing effectively in each match."

Surely, expecting at least two victories in the group stage against the likes of Netherlands and Nepal wouldn't be seen as an unreasonable ambition. Bangladesh will be keen to avoid a repeat of past performances and establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in T20 cricket. The World Cup presents an opportunity for redemption, a chance to rewrite their narrative in the biggest stage of all. The wait is over. The Tigers are ready to pounce. Only time will tell if they can finally roar their way into the annals of World Cup history.