Feb 5 (Reuters) - Pulling off an upset or two and guarding against potential banana skins will be the mantra for Bangladesh, who will bank on the senior trio of Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim to try and punch above their weight at the World Cup.
Chief selector Faruque Ahmed has no illusions about the knockout prospects of the team which has been clubbed in Pool A with, among others, tournament co-hosts Australia and New Zealand, former champions Sri Lanka and three-times runners-up England.
According to him, Bangladesh’s “realistic goal” should be to beat lower ranked Afghanistan and Scotland before trying to humble one of the four major sides.
Pulling the rug from under the feet of a major team is something Bangladesh have done more than once in the tournament before.
They stunned Pakistan in 1999, upset India in 2007 to progress to the Super Eight stage where they humbled South Africa to cap their best World Cup performance and beat England in 2011 - a trend the new-look team under Mashrafe Mortaza naturally want to continue.
The selectors have packed the team with nine World Cup first timers and the onus is on Shakib, Tamim and Mushfiqur to lead the campaign .
“Shakib, Tamim and Mushfiqur have been performing for as long as they have been in the Bangladesh team,” Mortaza said before leaving for Australia.
“I also feel that it is their time and stage to do well. They will get more attention if they do well in the World Cup.”
Apart from scoring the runs and getting the wickets, the trio -- who made their World Cup debut together in 2007 -- will also have to ensure their younger team mates don’t get overwhelmed by the occasion.
The World Cup presents Shakib, arguably the best player Bangladesh have ever produced, another opportunity to burnish his reputation as an all-rounder.
A free-scoring batsman and effective left-arm spinner, Shakib will enjoy the stage and the challenge of performing against the best in one-day cricket’s biggest competition.
Tamim will have to shoulder the responsibility of giving the team a flying start. The left-hander underwent knee surgery in November and has just rejoined the squad.
The job is cut out for Mushfiqur as well. The 26-year-old has made the wicketkeeper’s slot his own but it is his consistent performance in front of stumps that has made him an indispensable member of the squad. (Editing by Patrick Johnston)