Kolkata – Bangladesh will look to compound the misery of beleaguered Pakistan Wednesday in their opening group match of the World Twenty20, fresh from humbling their arch-rivals in the Asia Cup.
Despite their recent improvements in 50-over cricket, Bangladesh have a rotten record in the World T20 and have never beaten Pakistan in the premier tournament of cricket’s shortest format.
But they will fancy their chances like never before at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens against a team who are on a miserable run and whose preparations have been hit by their late arrival in India in a row over security.
Bangladesh cruised through last week’s preliminary round and know that a victory over Pakistan will set them up nicely if they are to make the semi-finals for the first time.
Star batsman Tamim Iqbal is in the form of his life, scoring Bangladesh’s first ever international T20 century in Sunday’s victory over Oman after scores of 83 and 47 in the first two games.
Fans in the cricket-crazy nation held impromptu street parties earlier this month when Bangladesh clinched a five-wicket win over Pakistan in Dhaka, sealing a place in the final of the Asia Cup which they lost to India.
Bangladesh was part of Pakistan before a brutal 1971 war of separation, and matches between the sides therefore always have an extra edge to them.
Mashrafe Mortaza’s side can expect strong support from their fellow Bengalis in what is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal.
But Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi has been making his own overtures towards the locals by claiming his team has received more “love” from fans in India than back home, comments that incensed former Pakistan skipper Javed Miandad.
– Backing for Boom Boom –
Pakistan coach Waqar Younis said that the team’s troubled build-up to the tournament did not mean they should be written off.
“We’re the kind of team that once we get the momentum going, we can surprise people,” Younis said in a pre-match press conference.
The former bowling great also backed the big-hitting Afridi to rediscover the kind of form with the bat that earned him the nickname Boom Boom.
“It takes less than a minute to lose form and to get it back as well. T20 cricket is like that, we’re hoping that he’s one innings away from getting back his old form,” said Younis.
Bangladesh’s build-up has been serene in comparison to the dramas in Pakistan’s camp.
But after seeing off Oman, the Netherlands and Ireland in the preliminaries, Mortaza knows the hard work now begins in a group that includes India, Australia and New Zealand.
“In that group you can’t make any mistakes, you have to be up to the mark everywhere,” said the veteran bowler.
Bangladesh (from): Mashrafe Mortaza (captain), Shakib Al Hasan, Abu Hider, Al-Amin Hossain, Arafat Sunny, Mahmudullah, Mohammad Mithun, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mustafizur Rahman, Nasir Hossain, Nurul Hasan, Sabbir Rahman, Soumya Sarkar, Tamim Iqbal, Taskin Ahmed
Pakistan (from): Shahid Afridi (captain), Anwar Ali, Imad Wasim, Khalid Latif, Khurram Manzoor, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Sami, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, Sharjeel Khan, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz