Crunch time has come for Bangladesh sooner than they would have liked, and it has as much to do with their opposition in today’s World Cup match as it does with the weather in Bristol. Bangladesh would surely have marked out a win over lower-ranked Sri Lanka on their roadmap to a potential World Cup semifinal place, but the bleak weather forecast may mean that the match is washed out, in which case the shared points would cost Bangladesh more.
Making matters bleaker for Bangladesh, there is an injury scare surrounding their top performer Shakib Al Hasan as a scan done on his left quad suggested a Grade 1 strain. Shakib sustained the injury while scoring 121 in their 106-run defeat to England on Saturday.
Even in the case of a curtailed-overs game, which seems to be the best case scenario as rain is forecast throughout the day, Bangladesh would be at a disadvantage as they are not yet very adept at playing shortened games of cricket, which demand a more frenzied style of play and place the onus on big hits.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, should be happier with a curtailed game as they have the likes of Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews to force the issue.
An abandoned match would be the worst-case scenario for Bangladesh as it would leave them needing to win at least four out of their last five matches against West Indies, Australia, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“If there is no match, then the equation will become difficult for us. It is very important that it happens,” Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza said at the pre-match press conference. “Maybe if we won one of the last two games [against New Zealand and England], it would not have been this important.”
The last two defeats have deflated Bangladesh a bit and with the weather threat, as well as the possibility of being without their trump card, they will have to be in their best, most focused form to ace today’s challenge.
To that end, perhaps with a curtailed-overs game in mind, the players -- especially middle-order batsmen like Mahmudullah Riyad, Mushfiqur Rahim, Sabbir Rahman and Mohammad Saifuddin -- were practising hitting sixes over the short, straight boundaries.
The two defeats have also brought on a lot of discussions and suggestions of changes to an eleven that has so far been unchanged in the first three matches. Changes are in the offing today, but as Mashrafe said, there may not be many in order to avoid the risk of destabilising the team. With the pitches staying under cover for most of the last three days, it does open up the possibility of pacer Rubel Hossain coming in. He could replace either number seven batsman Mosaddek Hossain or off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz. It may be Mehedi making way as the straight boundaries at Bristol are short, thus making lives of spinners difficult. However, if Shakib -- also Bangladesh’s frontline spinner -- is unavailable, then Mehedi will likely play as the sole spinner.
Depending on how much the match is shortened, there may also be a place for Sabbir Rahman to replace Mohammad Mithun to bolster the Tigers’ six-hitting capabilities.
Aside from tinkering with the playing eleven, Bangladesh would be hoping that the weather allows them to showcase as much of their superiority over Sri Lanka as possible.