Shakib gears up for biggest test
Shakib Al Hasan will lead his Bangladesh side into the Shere Bangla National Stadium tomorrow with the weight of a nation resting on his shoulders.
To say the upcoming World Cup has captured the imagination of the joint-hosts is among the largest of understatements.
For, in the eyes of the Tigers’ fanatical supporters, this is their time. Their time to emerge from the shadows of international cricket’s ‘Big Eight’ and establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with.
In the past, victories over the more established names have been regarded as a shock, or a giant-killing.
Yet, after cruising to a 4-0 victory over New Zealand recently, suddenly Bangladesh find themselves dining at the top table, with onlookers suggesting they have a real chance of reaching the latter stages of the showpiece this time round.
After the home support turned out in droves for yesterday’s opening ceremony, Shakib is hoping to repay their faith, starting with the tournament opener against India.
"They (the fans) came out and did their job yesterday, now it is time for us to go out and do our job," he said.
“The festivities are over, the song and dance is behind us. The only way the festivities will carry on in Bangladesh is if its cricket team does its job.”
It will be refreshing for the aforementioned supporters to hear Shakib speak with such assurance given the criticisms the team have faced in recent times.
Always admired for their unrelenting aggression, Bangladesh have often been maligned for playing with too much freedom.
Yet in Shakib they have a man who, like the team he leads, is maturing.
Speaking about his side’s chances of reaching the latter stages of the competition, the all-rounder said: “We’ve been playing good cricket for the last 15 months and if we qualify for the second round, why not think of something big?
"We have to win at least four matches to win a place in the second round. It is not difficult. I think we are capable of booking a place in the second round."
India, meanwhile, enter the competition with even greater expectations.
Last time out, in the Caribbean four years ago, they were surprisingly knocked out at the first-round stage mainly due to a five-wicket defeat at the hands of tomorrow’s opponents.
Opener Virender Sehwag is keen to avoid a repeat of that result.
“We lost against them and we have been waiting for the moment when we will play against them in this World Cup,” he said.
“I think so far we have lost just one or two games against Bangladesh - one in the World Cup and maybe one in Bangladesh. So our record against them is very good."