The Champions Trophy 2017 semifinal against India is Bangladesh’s biggest match in their history: This is the first time Bangladesh have made it to the final four of any ICC tournament.
One win, which they are well capable of, and the team will be in the final. Before they can dream of that though, they need to get past a well-oiled Indian side at Edgbaston in Birmingham. And one of the first steps to doing that is not making the occasion more than it is.
“At the start of the tournament, I said that whatever we are going to achieve here will be big. We are very happy with where we are,” said Chandika Hathurusingha, the former Sri Lanka player who is now the Bangladesh coach on Tuesday (June 13), two days before the match. “We are confident. Just another game, that’s how we are going to approach it. We relish the opportunity we have. For us, it’s the first time. Not like the other teams. We’re not thinking of the occasion too much. This is an opportunity to show the world what we can do and how far we have come. We’re treating this not as a big match but a big opportunity.”
What will help Bangladesh is that this is not the first time they are in a big knockout match, having been there before in the 2015 World Cup, where they lost to India in the quarterfinal – a defeat that still doesn’t go down easily for the more passionate fans in Bangladesh. That World Cup though, marked a turning point for Bangladesh, and after that came home series wins against India, South Africa and Pakistan.
“It was a gradual improvement if you look at our last few years,” reflected Hathurusingha. “I thought the World Cup was a big turning point for us, getting to the quarterfinal, beating England. Then we focused on our home series where we wanted to do well. In the last one year or so we have set our target to do well overseas. This is a journey, the semifinal is big step forward.
“The biggest hurdle for us is playing away from home,” he added. “If you don’t play away from home with big teams, you don’t know where you’re at. Belief comes from playing against the big teams. If you look at our history, whenever we’ve played any team a few times, we’ve closed the gap. That’s the biggest thing, if you speak of belief.”
Bangladesh have certainly had the belief against India in recent times, notwithstanding the warm-up match defeat by 240 runs at The Oval, two days before the Champions Trophy began. The World Cup loss still rankles and they have the 2-1 series win at home later in 2015 to draw on.
Hathurusingha though, downplayed any talk of ‘revenge’, and lauded India as the title favourites.
“To be honest, not many people gave us chance to be here even,” he said of Bangladesh reaching the semifinals. “But India is a good team. If we can beat them, it will be a very good achievement for us. At the start of the tournament, I’d have said India were one of the favourites. For me they are still the favourite team to win this competition. But as I said before, if we play to our potential, we can give any opposition a run for their money.
“There’s no feeling of revenge. It’s about playing a good game against a very good Indian team. A win would give us a lot of confidence. We are only thinking of competing and doing our best. In terms of playing fearless cricket, that’s what we have been doing. There’s no fear of ‘what if’ when we go into the middle.”