From minnows to giant-killers to a serious force from sub-continent, the ascendancy of passion-driven Bangladesh has indeed created a buzz in the cricketing circle, making them a side to watch out for in the upcoming World Cup. The evolution of Bangladesh is uncontested and the heavyweights are aware that the ‘passionate Tigers’ pose a serious threat to them. A testimony of that is their five ODI series victories in a row — against Pakistan, India, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan — between April 2015 and October 2016. Ahead of the quadrennial event too, they received a huge shot in the arms when they defeated West Indies in a rain-hit final to clinch the tri-nation ODI series at Dublin last week. It was their first triumph in a multi-nation tournament after reaching six ODI finals in the last 10 years, a feat that will give Mashrafe Mortaza‘s men the right impetus going into the showpiece event.

It will be fifth and last ICC World Cup for the 35-year-old Mortaza, who had led Bangladesh to the 2015 World Cup quarterfinal and the 2017 Champions Trophy semifinal. It all started in the 1999 World Cup at United Kingdom when Bangladesh, on debut, stunned the 1992 Champions Pakistan, a country they were carved out of after the 1971 war. Bangladesh went on to achieve full membership of the ICC and earned Test status a year later. After a forgettable outing in the 2003 edition, Bangladesh returned to deflate India’s hopes in the 2007 edition, knocking out the neighbours in the group stage. Mortaza was the hero of that match, snapping four wickets to dismiss India for 191, while Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim — all hit half-centuries to hand Bangladesh a five-wicket win.

Bangladesh also stunned South Africa in the Super Eight stage to send a strong message to the world. However, the Tigers had nothing to write about in the 2011 edition which they co-hosted, while going down against India in the quarterfinal in the last edition in Australia. The quartet of Mortaza, Tamim, Shakib and Mushfiqur now forms the core of the new Bangladesh team as they eye their first semifinal spot. Mortaza’s men have recorded 13 wins out of last 20 matches, including a series win over West Indies, an appearance in the 2018 Asia Cup Final and the dominating performance in the recent tri-series, also involving Ireland.

The tournament helped the Tigers find answers to some teething problems such as their opening combination, lack of bowling experience and effectiveness of spinners in the middle overs. While experienced left-handed opener Tamin has been their batting mainstay, the inconsistent form of Liton Das is an issue. But Soumya Sarkar provided the answer with three superb half-centuries as the other opener during the tri-series. In the bowling department, Mortaza and Mustafizur Rahman looked in good rhythm and were rewarded with wickets, while youngsters Mohammad Saifuddin and Abu Jayed also impressed, assuring that they would come handy if the conditions are conducive to swing bowling.

Among the spinners, Mehidy Hasan troubled the batsmen with his off-spin, while they have the required experience Shakib, who enters the World Cup as world number one all-rounder. However, World Cup is a different ball-game where Bangladesh will come across the best teams and favourites such as England, India and Australia and they will have to consistently punch above their weights to get closer knockout stage. Bangladesh will open against South Africa on June 2, before taking on New Zealand (June 5) and hosts England (June 8). Bangladesh head coach Steve Rhodes is confident that they have depth to challenge the top sides.

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