England’s win over India made matters harder for Bangladesh to qualify for the 2019 World Cup semifinals. Bangladesh will now have to beat India today in Edgbaston and Pakistan at Lord’s on June 5 while also hoping that England lose to New Zealand on June 3. Perhaps that is why Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza appeared a little downcast at the beginning of his pre-match press conference.
When speaking about the prospect of beating India today, ‘it will be difficult but we have to do our best’ seemed to be a constant refrain initially. It was understandable of course -- Bangladesh have a 5-29 win/loss ratio against India, have lost their last four matches as well as their last two World Cup games in 2015 and 2011. Also, in crunch matches -- the 2018 Asia Cup final, the Nidahas Trophy final in 2018, the 2017 Champions Trophy semifinal, the 2016 Asia Cup T20 final and the 2015 World Cup quarterfinal -- they have always come out second-best against India.
The first half of the press conference could be characterised as that of a captain who did not see much hope in the offing. He was even unsure about what to do at the toss.
“Usually, when it is a used wicket, teams bat first,” Mashrafe had said. “But with India, it is difficult, they are very good at chasing, so I don’t know.”
As the press conference wore on, however, Mashrafe lightened up -- perhaps embracing the uncertainty of his team’s position. It all seemed to start with a question in jest about whether the current member of parliament would become a prime minister in 10-15 years. There was general laughter when Mashrafe replied with ‘surely not’.
When asked whether the slow nature of the wicket would help the likes of cutter-specialist Mustafizur Rahman bowl his slowers, Mashrafe -- whose drop in pace in the last decade has become a topic of discussion -- had this gem: “Our balls are slow anyway.”
His chuckle as he said that drew raucous laughter from Bangladeshi journalists. The lack of pace not just in Mashrafe’s bowling but on the general pace-bowling scene in the country is well known and documented, and it seemed like a breaking down of pretence from the Bangladesh captain ahead of what may be the 35-year-old’s last World Cup match.
He also had a funny comment on the England-India match, during which both Bangladesh and Pakistan supporters were supporting India for selfish reasons.
“It was the first time I saw in cricket that the whole of Asia were united,” Mashrafe said.
As someone who believes wholeheartedly in the role luck plays in cricket, Mashrafe went from apparent resignation to a jocular acceptance of his team’s shortcomings. He has been embracing uncertainty all his career, and perhaps that will be the way forward for Bangladesh when odds are stacked against them today.