Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Perspective: Bangladesh’s Unsuccessful Chase 

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Twenty five years ago, at the 1999 Men’s ODI World Cup, Bangladesh delivered a shocking upset over Pakistan in Northampton, bowling out the 1992 champions and winning by 61 runs. 

Bangladesh had recently qualified for their first World Cup ever, but dropped their first two matches of the tournament against New Zealand and the West Indies. In defeating Pakistan that May 31st, Bangladesh scored their ever first victory over a test nation. 

The match also carried deeper meaning. Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, gained independence from the rest of Pakistan in 1971 after a bloody and painful conflict, and even in 1999 the wounds had not all healed. 

That victory helped lay the groundwork for Bangladesh being granted full ICC membership and becoming a test nation themselves, the 10th overall, the following June 2000.

Nation ascendant

The future looked bright for Bangladesh in general. And over the subsequent quarter century, outside of cricket, that has come to fruition. Bangladesh has delivered impressive economic growth and improvement in social and health indicators, and continued to best Pakistan on many fronts. 

Take, for instance, the World Bank’s Per Capita Income (PCI) data for both countries from 1960 – 2020: 

 

Source: data.worldbank.org 

Bangladesh’s PCI, once lagging behind, is now roughly 70% more than Pakistan’s. Bangladesh’s overall literacy rate is 75% to Pakistan’s 60%.  

Indeed, Bangladesh is often hailed as an impressive development and government policy success story, and a star of the South Asian region overall. Pakistan, by contrast, has struggled. 

Not on the pitch

However, after that 1999 victory, success on the cricket pitch has been elusive for Bangladesh, especially in limited overs tournaments. 

In ICC ODI World Cups, Bangladesh have only advanced out of the group stage twice, both times finishing only seventh overall.  

In the eight previous T20 World Cups, Bangladesh’s results have been even more dismal. They only managed to advance out of the group stage in the inaugural edition in 2007, and made it no further. In three of the last four T20 World Cups they finished dead last in their groups. 

This disappointing record for Bangladesh comes despite being regularly stacked with talent on all fronts. They have been led for much of the recent past by Shakib al Hasan, the only cricketer ever to be ranked by the ICC as the top all-rounder in all three formats of the game. They have always also been blessed with a strong bowling attack and exciting batsmen. 

By contrast, Pakistan, who also have a reputation for underachieving relative to their talent, have fared better. They made the final in that 1999 ODI tournament after losing to Bangladesh, reached the 2011 Semifinals, and have placed better than Bangladesh all but once. 

In the T20 format, Pakistan has an even stronger record. In the eight World Cups, they’ve made the semis six times, the finals three times, and were champions of the 2009 edition. 

Bangladesh vs. South Africa in 2024

When Bangladesh took the field on Monday in their group stage clash against South Africa in the 2024 T20 World Cup in New York, they had a lot going for them. 

They brought one of the best bowling attacks in the world

They were playing on the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium’s bowler friendly pitch for the third time, which played to their strengths as a team. Bangladesh by that point were very familiar with the ground.  

Bangladesh were also backed by a crowd of 22,658, virtually all Bangladesh supporters. There are by some counts over 500,000 Bangladeshis in the greater New York area and, passionate cricket fans that they are, a solid percentage of them made it out for the match. 

And the crowd was not only large but also loud, even on a Monday morning. At many points throughout the match the cheers filling the stadium were even louder than on the previous day. 

Most importantly, Bangladesh had the benefit of watching India and Pakistan on the same pitch the day before. 

They saw Pakistan bowl India out for 119 

They then saw Pakistan fail to chase down that target, building too slowly, keeping wickets in hand, and leaving too much for the end. They had seen very specifically what not to do.  

Those who don’t learn from the past…

Bangladesh, like Pakistan, managed to hold their opponents to a relatively low score off the strength of their bowling attack, which tore through South Africa’s order. South Africa only managed 113, six lower than India’s score. 

And then, inexplicably, Bangladesh approached their chase in virtually the exact same way that Pakistan had. 

They seemed in control for much of the chase, but let it come down to the last over. 

Rather than score the 11 runs they needed, they lost two wickets to orthodox spinner Keshav Maharaj, and fell four runs short. 

Some positives

Unlike Pakistan, however, Bangladesh currently hold their fate in their own hands. They have already won a match, and just need to beat the Netherlands and Nepal in order to advance.

Bangladesh also did a better job running between the wickets than Pakistan had, snagging singles and twos wherever they could. That will serve them well. 

Bangladesh also seem to be in a good mental place despite the loss. In the post game press conferences, the team exuded a remarkable calm and maintained a focus on what they need to correct. 

So all was not lost on Monday for Bangladesh. They need to regroup and take care of their remaining business. 

If they learn from their mistakes in this match, they may very well break their 25 year dry spell this time around. 

 

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