NEW DELHI, February 1- Familiar home conditions, fanatical crowd support and a young energetic side give Bangladesh a chance to emerge from the shadows when the World Cup is played in their backyard.
The ‘Tigers’ have had a miserable time at the Test level, losing 59 of their 68 matches and winning just three against lowly Zimbabwe and an under-strength West Indies.
But limited-overs cricket is their forte as was evident in the previous World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007 when they knocked out India in the first round and stunned South Africa in the Super Eights.
Now co-hosting the showpiece event with India and Sri Lanka, Bangladesh could not have asked for a better setting to prove they are worthy of a place among the top cricketing nations.
A quarter-final berth is the least millions of fans in the cricket-crazy South Asian nation will expect Shakib Al Hasan’s men to achieve, if not an unprecedented place in the semi-finals.
Bangladesh are drawn with India, South Africa, England, West Indies, Ireland and the Netherlands in the round-robin Group B from which four teams will qualify for the quarter-finals.
They must defeat one of the established Test nations and ensure they do not slip-up against Ireland and the Netherlands to advance to the knock-out rounds.
The advantage Bangladesh enjoy is they play all their six league matches at home in Dhaka and Chittagong, where they have won seven of their last 10 one-dayers and lost just once.
The victories include a superb 4-0 rout of New Zealand last October, indicating Bangladesh will be a force to reckon with on their own spin-friendly wickets.
The team suffered a blow when former captain and pace spearhead Mashrafe Mortaza was not included in the squad due to a recurring knee injury.
Mortaza, 27, has been the pivot of the Bangladesh attack with 146 one-day wickets, including a match-winning 4-38 against India in the last World Cup.
The team’s Australian coach Jamie Siddons admitted Mortaza’s absence was a major setback.
"A fit and firing ‘Mash’ was obviously our first preference, and this is a huge disappointment for him and the team as well," said Siddons.
"The loss of ‘Mash’ will be seen in his leadership and experience. We cannot cover this aspect of his loss."
The latest injury follows six knee reconstructions in the space of eight years, but Bangladesh are hoping Mortaza may still play if he recovers fully before the tournament starts.
The ‘Tigers’ will bank on skipper Shakib, the leading all-rounder in the official one-day rankings, veteran batsman Mohammad Ashraful and star spinner Abdur Razzak to lift the side.
Left-hander Shakib is a reluctant captain, but has led from the front with 787 runs in 27 one-dayers last year and picked up 46 wickets with his left-arm spin.
The openers have also been in dominating form with Imrul Kayes the nation’s top-scorer in 2010 with 867 runs from 27 games and the swashbuckling Tamim Iqbal with 776 from 23.
A key moment for Bangladesh will be the tournament opener against power-packed India at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka on February 19.
A victory — or even a close loss — will set the ‘Tigers’ up for the ride of their lives.