Cricket World Cup 2019: Wins, not respect, is what Mashrafe Mortaza and Bangladesh are chasing
Mashrafe Mortaza: "We can’t look at what England batsmen did yesterday." © AFP

BRISTOL: Mashrafe Mortaza‘s eyes crinkled, ever so fleetingly, as he answered a question from a journalist while seated on the podium addressing reporters a day before Bangladesh‘s fourth match of the ICC Cricket World Cup.

It was the third question of a lengthy press conference inside the County Ground, after the Bangladesh cricket team successfully completed their training session before the rain descended on the venue. There must be a lot on Mortaza’s mind as Bangladesh skipper, having overseen two defeats in a row after that win over South Africa in their World Cup opener.

The rain threatens to dampen everyone involved with this match, and Mortaza knows the importance of getting more than one point from Tuesday’s match against Sri Lanka. The Bangladesh squad, he revealed, is carrying a few niggles. The prospect of making the World Cup semi-finals, he admitted candidly, is looking tough. The pressure from fans back home is piling up.

Mortaza has a few worries, yes, but getting respect from the cricketing world isn’t one of them. He was asked about whether he feels his team has earned more respect after beating South Africa, and his reply came back unhurried and distinctly monotone.

“I’m not worried about who is respecting us or not. I’m more worried about our performance, and make sure we are winning these matches. That is more important for us,” he said. “Respect, it depends. Respect varies man-to-man, but I don’t think so respect is going to work on the 22 yards. I think it all depends how we react on the crowd and how we play and if we can manage to win two points, it’s more important than respect at the moment.”

After Bangladesh beat South Africa in their World Cup opener, said Mortaza, he was confident of the team’s chances against New Zealand. They ended up losing that match by two wickets, where a contentious lbw decision against Mitchell Santner went New Zealand’s way.

Then Bangladesh ran into a bruised England, who coming off defeat to Pakistan stormed to a hefty win. This has left Bangladesh searching for vital points against Sri Lanka, with rain threatening to play spoilsport in Bristol.

“I hope we will play a full match tomorrow,” said Mortaza. “I think the team is fine. Yes, disappointing after two losses, but especially against New Zealand, but no, this sort of tournament, we knew that before the ending, you’re never sure, so still a lot of hope there. Boys really hungry to win matches, so team is fine. But again, expecting a full match.”

Mushfiqur Rahim Bangladesh cricket
Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah during Bangladesh’s training session in Bristol. © AFP

“We are expecting to win. Especially [the] New Zealand match, we thought that we could win, because against South Africa when we won, our concentration level, our confidence level was so high that we can beat New Zealand, but Saturday, we couldn’t.

“It’s not going to be easy, but obviously we’d love to see ourselves in the semis, but again, the calculation is right now is a lot, lot difficult. If we could manage to win one of those matches against New Zealand or England, it could have been a lot easier. But at the moment, looks to be very difficult. But again, I say it’s possible. It’s very much possible. We have to make sure that we have to come back into the winning track and then have a look what happens next.”

Head to head in ODIs over the past two years, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are locked at 2-2. In September 2018 during the Asia Cup, Mortaza’s team beat Sri Lanka by 137 runs. But for the skipper, that was not on his mind.

“I think we should only focus on tomorrow’s matches. Whatever happened past, I think we shouldn’t think about it,” he said. “England … even the England match, same question was asking that. We played twice there and what’s going to happen. We lost badly. So nothing going to work that way. We have to play and play hard, and try at our best to win the match, and we have to make sure that we are doing everything right.

“I think pressure will be there every match. Even Sri Lanka next match, all the matches especially will come. So I think it’s possible [that Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka]. Pressure will be there. I don’t want to say there is no pressure; 100 percent, pressure will be there. But at the same time, I have to say that we have to cope with those pressure and make sure we deliver. A few things can happen, go away from us, but we have to make sure the end of the day, we are in the winning side. That’s what we have to — from the first ball, that’s what we have to target.”