Cricket World Cup 2019: Best way for Bangladesh to beat West Indies is keep taking wickets – Mashrafe Mortaza
Mashrafe Mortaza: "Still a lot of matches left. We can make a difference." © AFP

TAUNTON: It is a rivalry that, purely in the ODI format, is decidedly lop-sided in favour of Bangladesh. In the last two years, they have won seven of nine ODIs versus West Indies, their opponents in match 23 of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in Taunton on Monday.

In 2018, Bangladesh went to the Caribbean, got smashed in the two-Test series but triumphed by 2-1 margins in the ODI and T20I series that followed. A few months later, West Indies landed in Bangladesh and were blanked 0-2 in the Tests (inside three days, both times), lost the ODIs 1-2 and won the T20Is 2-1.

In May, weeks before the World Cup began, Bangladesh won all three matches of an ODI tri-series in Ireland against West Indies. Their hat-trick of wins won them the trophy.

Ahead of Bangladesh’s match against West Indies in Taunton – one that both teams have to win to keep their semi-final hopes intact – the skipper Mashrafe Mortaza assessed his opponent’s strengths and weakness without dwelling too much on the past.

“We have faced their main bowling attack, but we can’t relax because of that. We have to understand that it is a new game,” he said. “In tournaments like this, you have to plan differently for each team. You can’t just stick to one type of mindset. We can’t expect it to be an easy win because of winning seven out of nine matches.

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“I think it’s time to think about ourselves only. If you understand this tournament, obviously a few matches left but tomorrow’s a very important match for us, especially losing elsewhere … I would say especially losing a few points in the last three matches. Hopefully we’ll play well.”

Bangladesh began the World Cup by beating South Africa, but since then have lost to New Zealand and England and took one point from a washout in Bristol against Sri Lanka. This has left them chasing vital points against West Indies, ahead of fixtures with Australia, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

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Mashrafe was not drawn to ponder how Bangladesh could fare in the weeks to come, instead focusing on the job at hand.

“Still have five matches left. So you never know,” he said. “You don’t have to think [about] all those five matches. Tomorrow’s match is very important. We have to take it one by one. If you reassess the previous things, we lost against New Zealand, that might cost a little bit. But again we have still five matches left, as I said, that if we can take one by one at a time, and if we really perform well, which is in the World Cup, you have to do it. You can’t just always think you can win this match. And if you can’t win the next many, you’ll get down yourself. We can make a difference. We have to believe in it, I believe that my team is believing.”

In Mortaza’s estimation, his team stands a good chance if they can keep striking with the ball. That, for him, is the only way to stay in game given the number of big hitters in the opposition camp. And he should know.

In the tri-series in Dublin last month, Bangladesh beat West Indies by keeping them to 261/9 in 50 overs and 247/9 in 50 overs in the league phase. In the final, West Indies’ innings was ended at 152/1 in 24 overs by rain. Chasing a Duckworth-Lewis revised total of 210 in 24 overs, Bangladesh won by five wickets with seven deliveries remaining, but Mortaza is aware that such chases are not going to be possible every time. For him, wickets is the way to beat West Indies.

Shimron Hetmyer
Shimron Hetmyer bats during West Indies’ training session in Taunton. © AFP

“Most opponents plan about West Indies’ batting, because of how they mostly adopt the T20 style of play in ODIs. Bowlers will have a hard time if they get going, so we have be strict in our planning,” he said. “We have to calm our nerves in difficult situations. The positive part is that playing lots of shots gives us chances. There’s no alternative to taking wickets against the West Indies because they can cause serious damage.”

And at the miniature County Ground in Taunton, Mashrafe is aware of the damage West Indies can do if it turns out to be their day.

“West Indies’ mishits go for sixes in any ground. It will count as six in this ground, not twelve.” he said. “We have to look at it positively; the smaller ground will also suit our batsmen. The bowlers will have the bigger challenge because many 50-50 shots will become a six, but that is mostly the case against West Indies.”

Mortaza is confident that Bangladesh can challenge West Indies’ batsmen through Mehidy Hasan Miraz, the offspinner who has take 12 wickets in ODIs against West Indies at an excellent economy rate of 3.86 an over.

“I think bowling offspin is very important when we think of attacking them,” said Mortaza. “Obviously, we’ve been quite successful against them with some offspinners. And if you look at recently, I think, Mehidy bowled really well against them. And he’s bowling so well in this World Cup as well. Obviously the top five West Indies are left handers, Mehidy bowled against them really well. So it’s a positive sign.”