Cricket admirers all over the world are eagerly waiting for the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 cricket fiesta set to start from June 1. The tournament will kick off with Bengal Tigers taking on the host English Lions at the Oval.
Eight ICC top ranked teams divided into two groups will play one another in round robin league system. Two top teams from each group would qualify for the knock out round.
All teams except the reigning champion India have announced their squads within the 25 April deadline. Rumors are around that India, for pressing some of their issues in the ongoing ICC meeting in Dubai has held back announcing the squad.
During the ongoing ICC General Meeting, India has been outvoted overwhelmingly on two critical issues. It is to be seen whether they will participate at all in the prestigious tournament or not. If India will abstain from participating, West Indies would be invited to fill in.
Given the nature of ODI, conditions of wicket in England and Wales in June, composition of the squads, recent forms of players every match promises to produce mouthwatering contest. None of the eight teams (including West Indies if they participate as replacement of India in default) can be tagged as outsider.
The groups are also equally balanced. Bangladesh had been placed in group A, has all the quality and potential for winning against any of the other three on their day. To acclimatize with the condition Bangladesh has already arrived in Sussex for two week long conditioning camp before appearing on a triangular series in Ireland involving Ireland and New Zealand.
Bangladesh will also play two warm up matches against India and Pakistan prior to starting the tournament against host England. Most of the top players of every team except Pakistan who are now on tour to West Indies, are engaged in IPL in India.
Squads: Group A: Australia, Bangladesh, England and New Zealand
AUSTRALIA: Steve Smith (c), David Warner, Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazelwood, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa
BANGLADESH: Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Sabbir Rahman, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehedi Hasan, Sanjamul Islam, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza (c), Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul Islam. Standby: Nasir Hossain, Nurul Hasan, Subashis Roy, Md. Saif Uddin
ENGLAND: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
NEW ZEALAND: Kane Williamson (c), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Neil Broom, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Jimmy Neesham, Jeetan Patel, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.
Pakistan: Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain), Azhar Ali, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Fakher Zaman, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Fahim Ashraf, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, Shadab Khan
South Africa: AB de Villiers (c), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Dwaine Pretorius, Kesha Maharaja, Farhaan Behardien, Morne Morkel.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (c), Upul Tharanga (vc), Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Asela Gunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thisara Perera, Lakshan Sandakan and Seekkuge Prasanna.
Bangladesh is The Dark Horse: We would like to term Bangladesh in current form as the dark horse of the tournament. Only team that they have not played in recent time is Australia. Bangladesh won matches and even series against Pakistan, India, and South Africa and drew against England and Sri Lanka.
In not too distant past Bangladesh white washed New Zealand in ODI series. Off course they got white washed by Kiwis in the recent series. But matches except the first of the three ODIs were keenly contested. The only ODI that Bangladesh ever won against Australia was at Cardiff when Mohammad Ashraful played a superlative cameo knock of hundred.
The condition is very different in England where ball swings prodigiously in the air especially if sun does not shine on the day. The ball also moves on the seam. Fortunately, Bangladesh now possesses some top quality new ball bowlers alongside charismatic captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza. The wickets will definitely suit Mustafizur Rahman and Shafiul Islam as well. Rubel Hossain and Taskin Ahmed will also enjoy bowling there.
The challenge is for the younger bowlers not getting carried away. Luckily master craftsman Courtney Walsh is there to mentor them. On Oval wicket, in the first match, Bangladesh may like to play Mehedi Hasan Miraz for his outstanding success against England.
Shakib has experience of playing in English condition. If required Mahmudullah, Mosaddek would chip in with few overs. Bowling will be stronger point of Bangladesh in the tournament. We have to remember that all opposing teams have greater experience of English condition than Bangladesh.
The tasks will not be so easy. The major challenges will be batsmen adjusting to the condition and fielders appearing like what they did in the last ODI against Sri Lanka. English, Australian and Kiwi pacers will try bouncing out Bangladesh batsmen. The tasks are well cut out for Bangladesh top order batsmen.
Tamim was exceptional in his last England tour scoring back to back Test centuries. He is also in prolific form now. He must anchor the innings from one end curbing his usual flamboyance a little bit at least for the first few overs.
Bangladesh needs the exuberance of Soumya at the top but we have to see how he adjusts to moving balls in English condition. On the other hand, Imrul Kayes with greater experience may be better choice as an opener. But the one who performs better in warm up and in tri series should be preferred.
We do not think Sabbir will be the ideal choice at number three. It will be better to play Mahmudullah for his techniques and greater experience. Sabbir can bat at lower middle order producing stroke play. Mushfiqur Rahim and Mosaddek Hossain Rubel will be ideal for fourth and fifth positions for their technique, skills and temperament. Experienced quality all-rounder Shakib can bat at four or six depending on circumstances. Similarly, Sabbir can be used as floater depending on situation.
If Bangladesh appears with four seamers including Mashrafe we find no place for Mehedi actually in the team. But against England and Australia, we suggest playing him. Against England he has psychological advantage after his prolific Test debut against them at home. English batsmen will like to attack him giving opportunity of getting out.
Australia has not played him yet. If Mehedi Hasan Miraz will play Mustafizur Rahman and one of the three pacers – Rubel / Taskin /Shafiul would join with Mashrafe to make the team.
We are not sure whether Sanjamul is a better choice than Nasir (stand bye) in the side. Quality all-rounder Nasir could be better choice especially when Bangladesh lacks strong strikers in the last 10 overs.
In the group stage Bangladesh plays first two matches against England and Australia in Oval. Bangladesh beat England in World Cup 2011 in Chittagong and ICC World Cup 2015 in Adelaide. There is no reason why they cannot repeat those performances though it will be far more challenging now in lion’s den. If Bangladesh can make winning start, the momentum would carry them through to round two.
Australia has packed their team with fast bowlers like Starc, Pattinson. Cummins, Hastings, Hazelwood and power hitters Warner, Maxwell, Flinch, Lynn, Smith, Wade, Head, Henriques. If Bangladeshi batsmen can absorb the hostile bowling spells of speedsters and Mustafiz and Mehedi magic works Bangladesh may even upset Australia.
There will be little to choose between Bangladesh and New Zealand. Moreover, teams will have opportunity judging each other in the triangular series preceding the tournament. It will be the attitude and temperament that would essentially make the difference.
Bangladesh must have mental toughness for winning against stronger opposition. Very often team creates winning situation but cannot go close to the match. Bangladesh has ability to perform. But it has to deliver and play with purpose.
Cricket admirers must remember that Bangladesh is not the favorite team for winning the tournament. They have ability to win against any team on their day. All we want Bangladesh to play up to their potential. Cricket admirers in social media or print media must not burden team tigers with sky high ambitions.
Khondkar Saleque Sufi
Khondkar Saleque Sufi is an eminent Research Fellow of Monash University, Australia, He was the former Advisor at Ministry of Mines & Petroleum of Republic of Afghanistan and Deputy General Manager of Bakhrabad Gas Systems Ltd.