Bangla all set to shed perennial underdogs tag

Published: Sunday, March 11, 2007, 21:59 [IST]
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Bridgetown (Barbados):An unbeaten run in the World Cup warm-ups could fulfil coach Dav Whatmore's prophesy that Bangladesh were not far off from shedding their tags as perennial underdogs.

While a victory over amateur outfit Scotland was always on the cards, a spectacular two-wicket upset over New Zealand on their debut outing this week in the Caribbean came as a very timely major boost.

The victory took on even greater significance since the Kiwis stand third in the rankings after pulling off a 3-0 whitewash over world champions Australia just weeks ago.

''It's important for Bangladesh to win as many (matches) as we can. Against a good opposition like New Zealand, the win was terrific for us,'' Whatmore told reporters.

''We're ranked ninth ... and most judges around the world would expect the opposition to beat Bangladesh every time there is fixture.

''(But) we're improving all the time and I just feel it's becoming more of a reality that Bangladesh might cause an upset or two.''

It is a mantra that Whatmore hopes his men will carry forward over the next two weeks as the road ahead could turn out to be very bumpy.

Placed in one of the two groups featuring three Test nations, Bangladesh will have to steer past at least one of their more fancied sub-continent rivals India or Sri Lanka if they are to progress beyond the opening phase for the first time in three attempts.

If they needed any inspiration to knock one of the big two out in Group B, which also features debutants Bermuda, they need not look far.

Bangladesh were one of only four nations to finish with 2-0 records at the warm-ups this week, joining India, Australia and Pakistan.

That should give them a psychological edge over Sri Lanka, who went down by 18 runs to the Black Caps on Friday, when the two countries meet on March 21.

They also have the advantage of having Whatmore in their ranks. The Colombo-born Australian masterminded Sri Lanka's surprise triumph at the 1996 World Cup and he will be determined that his insider's knowledge will benefit his current charges.

Once considered the whipping boys among the 10 Test-playing nations, Whatmore's influence over the past three years has gradually paid dividends.

They secured a notable win over Australia in 2005 and came out on top in 18 one-dayers out of 28 last year. They also won February's away series 3-1 against Zimbabwe.

Although most of Bangladesh's victories have come against Zimbabwe and Kenya, they won 64.24 per cent of their matches in 2006, second only to Australia (71.42).

''This time we are a team in a real sense. We have a reliable batting side and a good bowling side as well,'' captain Habibul Bashar said.

''The morale of the team is very high. Everybody is in a positive frame of mind and keen to perform."

''And we hope to fight effectively to move forward for the second round.'' Whatmore also believes the inroads made by the current crop of Bangladesh players will go a long way towards creating a world beating team in the near future.

''They've got potential to do that. They've got 150 million people in the country and all the kids there want to play cricket for Bangladesh,'' said Whatmore.

''Just like India and Sri Lanka we've got the base there from which to draw from ... the future is bright.''


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