Cricket World Cup 2019: Mashrafe Mortaza believes Bangladesh can beat India, provided they lift their game
Mashrafe Mortaza: "We have to play with our own plan." (© ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2018)

BIRMINGHAM: Asked point-blank on Monday at Edgbaston whether he is surprised that his team is still in the fray for the ICC Cricket World Cup semi-finals, Mashrafe Mortaza furrowed his brow and fixed the reporter with a quizzical look.

“No. I am not surprised. I am not sure what you are talking about,” he replied.

The question was posed to him again, in fewer words: Bangladesh are in contention for the World Cup semi-finals.

“Hundred percent. Two matches left, so we have to play our best,” said Mashrafe. “If we can manage to win it will be great. Both sides are very strong. India are a very strong side and we have to play hard and be 100 percent in every area. It’s a good thing that we are still alive in this tournament, but we have to play lot better than what we’ve played.”

(ALSO READ: Selection issues overshadow India’s semi-final march, Bangladesh look to stay alive)

Bangladesh believe they can make the World Cup semi-finals. They have to, right? Since the 2015 World Cup when they reached the quarter-finals for the first time, their cricket has risen upwards. In this tournament, they have defeated South Africa and West Indies and should have beaten New Zealand. One point from a washout against Sri Lanka has helped them.

On Tuesday, Mortaza’s team face India, who on the same Edgbaston pitch lost their first match of the tournament on Sunday. Bangladesh’s final group match is on Friday at Lord’s, against Pakistan. That match is a quarter-final, virtually.

(ALSO READ: Injuries and brittle middle order threaten to undo India ahead of semi-finals)

Mortaza doesn’t feel it is worth looking at what other teams have done. “We came here by winning three matches and one was rained off. If we have to win tomorrow we have to play well, like we did before in the matches won. If we lose, our World Cup is over. I take it positivel. I prefer that harder options are better, if you want to move forward it is better.”

The head to head in ODIs between India and Bangladesh is lopsided. India have beaten Bangladesh 29 times while losing five. One of those losses was the upset at the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. It has been 12 years, but four members of that famous victory –  – Tamim IqbalMushfiqur RahimShakib Al Hasan and Mortaza – are here in England.

For Mortaza, the past is the past and wins and losses before are not what matters on a new day.

“I am confident, I have to be. India are a very strong side,” he said. “We want to win every time. Their team is very strong. If we are hundred percent correct, you never know. In sport you can beat anybody. It will be very hard but you have to be at your best. I don’t think its psychological … it’s all about skill. Cricket is a psychological game. In the middle all pressure is handled by players. I don’t think there’s a lot of added pressure. Players playing on the ground will feel pressure in difficult situations.”

Shakib Al Hasan World Cup 2019
Shakib Al Hasan is the third-highest run-getter of the World Cup. © AFP

Shakib is the tournament’s third-highest run-getter with 476 at an average of 95.20. Of the six times he’s batted, Shakib has crossed 50 on five occasions. He’s also got 10 wickets. Shakib is Bangladesh cricket.

“Shakib, I think, has been doing whatever he can do. I mean, he’s been doing everything with his batting, his fielding, his bowling,” said Mortaza. “He’s done everything that he could have done. To be honest, he’s been the best performer, to me, and for my team I think he’s been the best performer in this World Cup. Still two matches left. Hopefully he’ll keep doing whatever he’s done and finish up on a good note.”

Shakib is aware, of course, of what India can do. He’s played them enough times. He’s followed their World Cup campaign.

“It is hard for me to talk about the Indian team. They will have their plans,” he said when asked to rate his opponents. “There is MSD [MS Dhoni] and Hardik Pandya who is in form. MSD has scored 10,000 runs and he knows how to handle situations. Their top order is the stronger side. We have to make sure that we minimise the damage limitations. If we can’t take out [their] top order, the middle order doesn’t come into the question.”