Pool A: Bangladesh look for turn around in fortunes
Bangladesh will need a dramatic turn in fortunes to ensure another World Cup does not cause more misery after the Tigers endured a morale-sapping year in which they slumped from one defeat to another.
Bangladesh failed to register wins for most of 2014 till fellow wooden-spooners Zimbabwe came calling at the end of the year and were duly thrashed 3-0 in Tests and 5-0 in the one-dayers.
It was only Zimbabwe the Tigers had beaten, but fanatical fans in the South Asian nation celebrated as if the World Cup itself had been won.
Bangladesh have struggled at Test level - winning just seven of their 88 Tests since their debut in 2000 - but have always appeared more suited to the shorter format where they have recorded creditable wins.
A five-wicket win over Australia at Cardiff in 2005 was their moment of glory till they knocked India out of the 2007 World Cup to move beyond the first round for the only time in the tournament.
Bangladesh must beat at least one of the big four in pool A - co-hosts Australia and New Zealand, Sri Lanka and England - and also win against both Afghanistan and Scotland to keep their quarter-final hopes alive.
A must-win scenario awaits them in the first match itself - against Afghanistan in Canberra on February 18 - because a loss like the one they suffered against the same rivals at the Asia Cup at home a year ago could prove costly.
"The kind of squad we have, I am confident we can reach the quarter-finals," Mashrafe Mortaza, who replaced Mushfiqur Rahim as one-day captain last year, told AFP.
Former captain and current selector Habibur Bashar wanted Bangladesh to aim big, saying it was not enough to target just Afghanistan and Scotland.
"We should aim for winning at least three to four matches," Bashar told AFP.
"The players should believe they can defeat any team in the group. On those true pitches Down Under, any total can be chased down."
The focal point of Bangladesh's campaign will be the skillful 27-year-old all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, who has been the team's mainstay ever since his international debut eight years ago.
The left-hand batsman and left-arm spinner goes into his third World Cup as the top-ranked all-rounder in all three formats, a tribute to his consistency with both bat and ball over the years.
Shakib is the only player in the team who has experienced Australian conditions recently, having turned out for Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash Twenty20 tournament.
Another player to watch is 22-year-old left-arm spinner Taijul Islam, who grabbed eight for 39 against Zimbabwe in Dhaka in only his third Test to record the best Test figures ever by a Bangladeshi bowler.
Soon after, he became the first bowler in history to claim a hat-trick on his one-day debut, against the same opponents at the same venue.
Competition will be tougher at the World Cup, but the exciting young talent could spring a few surprises.
Factfile on Bangladesh:
Squad: Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Anamul Haque, Mominul Haque, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah, Nasir Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Soumya Sarkar, Rubel Hossain, Taskin Ahmed, Al-Amin Hossain, Taijul Islam, and Arafat Sunny.
Coach: Chandika Hathurusinghe
Fixtures - Pool A:
Feb 18: Afghanistan, Canberra
Feb 21: Australia, Brisbane
Feb 26: Sri Lanka, Melbourne
Mar 05: Scotland, Nelson
Mar 09: England, Adelaide
Mar 13: New Zealand, Hamilton
World Cup record:
1999: First round
2003: First round
2007: Super Eights
2011: First round
Shakib Al Hasan - It is hard to look beyond Shakib Al Hasan as the focal point of Bangladesh's fortunes. The seasoned left-hand batsman and left-arm spinner has been the team's mainstay ever since his international debut eight years ago. He goes into his third World Cup as Bangladesh's leading cricketer with 3,977 runs and 182 wickets from 141 one-day internationals.
Shakib is the world's top-ranked allrounder in all formats of the game and got a taste of Australian conditions recently while playing in the Big Bash Twenty20 tournament, the lone Bangladeshi in the comnpetition. His strength lies in consistently accurate bowling even on dead pitches and his aggressive batting all round the wicket.
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