Bangladesh join the big boys
Guyana - Habibul Bashar does not come across as the sort of person you would burn in effigy but that is exactly what happened when Bangladesh lost their last World Cup game, to New Zealand on Monday.
The sort of scenes that have been seen in India and Pakistan transferred across the borders to the country only granted Test status in 2000 and until recently still regarded as a young upstart.
Perhaps Bashar, who has come under fire for his own poor form despite leading his side to the World Cup second round for the first time, should view it as a compliment.
The Tigers’ victory over India in the group stages was seen as an upset but anyone who has kept an eye on Bangladesh for the last two years – during which time they have beaten India and Australia – would have conceded it was always a possibility.
As Aussie captain Ricky Ponting said after handing them a 10-wicket thrashing in Antigua last week, Bangladesh should no longer be called minnows.
But if you want to play with the big boys you have to expect a few bumps and bruises along the way, and the next big boy is world number one South Africa on Saturday.
Coach Dav Whatmore admitted this week: “People are now not taking us as lightly as they may have done in the past. We’re no longer minnows but we need to up our performance a little bit more.”
Bangladesh can no longer play in cavalier fashion, with nothing to lose and everything to gain, so the burden shifts their way a little more.
Bashar, who seemed assured in front of eight television cameras at Friday’s media briefing, admitted increased expectations from the team and its fans had put more pressure on his players.
“We aspire a bit higher, we expect to do better than we did in the last games,” he said.
“Because we’ve been playing good cricket there has been expectation back home and that put us under a bit of pressure but that shouldn’t be an excuse.”
And when you mix it with the big boys, you can expect the mind games. South Africa skipper Graeme Smith’s brand is pretty bland but there is something about his glowering expression that turns it into a threat.
“They are caught in the middle at the moment,” said Smith of the Tigers.
“They’ve always been underdogs but now they’re in the Super 8 there is a lot of pressure on them back home to carry on beating top teams.
“That’s a different environment for them and those pressures are different.”
Playtime is most definitely over for Bashar and his boys.