Cape Town - Former skipper Habibul Bashar believes Bangladesh’s direct qualification to the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 after an 11-year hiatus is a big step forward for the country.
Bashar, who was the skipper when Bangladesh last made an appearance in the ICC Champions Trophy in 2006, is one of the ambassadors of the 2017 edition of tournament.
“It is definitely a big step forward for our country to qualify directly to this year's Champion's Trophy, and it is really important for the team as well,” said Bashar.
“Now we have the opportunity to demonstrate how good our ODI skills are at the present time.”
Bangladesh have made rapid strides in recent times, especially in limited-overs cricket at home, but success away from home has been few and far between.
Since their quarterfinal exit in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, Bangladesh have won One-Day International series against Pakistan (3-0), India (2-1), South Africa (2-1), Zimbabwe (3-0) and Afghanistan (2-1) – all at home.
Although Bangladesh played just two ODI series away from home during that period – against New Zealand (0-3) and Sri Lanka (1-1), Bashar is confident the tri-series in Ireland in May, with England as the third team, will help the side acclimatize to English conditions ahead of the Champions Trophy.
“We've been planning for the Champions Trophy for the last two years,” he explained.
“We did not have much success outside our home grounds, but we are prepared now. We played well in the 2015 World Cup in Australia. The last series against Sri Lanka gave us a lot of confidence.
“It is important to plan separately for this tournament, which is why we are going to Ireland for a tri-nation series before the Champions Trophy. That will help us greatly in preparing for English conditions. You will see a different Bangladesh in this year's Champions Trophy.”
During their last appearance in the 2006 edition of the tournament in India, Bangladesh beat Zimbabwe but lost two matches that led to its early exit. But Bashar credited that experience to Bangladesh's success in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007.
“Although we lost two out of three games and did not qualify, we gained a lot of experience,” he said.
“The key to our success in the 2007 World Cup was thanks to the extensive experience we acquired in the 2006 Champions Trophy.”
Bashar added that Bangladesh’s performance in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, where they knocked India out of tournament after a five-wicket win in the first phase, was in many ways instrumental in its transformation in limited-overs cricket.
“Well, we grew up playing a lot of 50-over games in domestic cricket. Our journey into international cricket was not easy. We struggled big-time at the beginning. From 2004, we started winning games but not on a consistent basis. However, after the 2007 World Cup, we started believing that we could beat any team in a 50-over game. I think that self-confidence changed everything.”
From that 2006 squad, only Shakib Al Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza remain, and both have played a crucial role in Bangladesh’s progress.
“Shakib and Mashrafe have greatly impacted our recent successes. But it's not only them, experienced players like Mushfiqur (Rahim), Tamim (Iqbal) and Mahmudullah too have played their part, and we have got some great talented young players in the team now. The reason behind our success in our recent endeavours has been due to the mix of our young and senior players.”