Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza admitted that there will be pressure on his side ahead of their maiden semi-final appearance in a global event but quantum of expectation is manifold from India which has a huge cricket following.
“Yes, we are playing in the semi-final and it is a pressure game. But if we are under pressure then I think India are under more pressure compared to us because of their huge population and the love for the game among common public,” Mortaza said at the pre-match press conference.
“Both teams face pressure of expectations. But at the end of the day, it’s a game of cricket, so whoever plays well, they will win. I just told the players if you take it as ‘the semi-final’, the pressure will be going very hard, but if you think it’s just another match the pressure will ease off,” he added.
The skipper agreed that there is hype around the match but didn’t want to classify it as the biggest match in Bangladesh’s cricket history. “I have been answering that question since 2015 World Cup. Obviously, there is a big hype. Being among top-eight and in the semi-final is big thing. But I am not sure if this is the biggest match or not.”
When asked what has been the catalyst in Bangladesh’s transformation as a potent ODI side, Mortaza said: “Beating England in 2015 World Cup and then giving New Zealand a tough fight were the high points.
“Then we beat Pakistan, India and South Africa at home. In last two years, we have managed to play with some sort of freedom. That is as much as you can do in the middle. Players feeling more secured about their places in the side. These things do help.”
Bangladeshi media’s favourite topic has been all about the encounter being a “grudge match” and how their beloved “Tigers” will be exacting revenge. Mashrafe, however, played it down.
“Not necessarily! I know it could have been any opposition. So I don’t have to think that since it’s India, it’s a grudge match. We will play just another match. Hopefully if we can soak in the pressure and play good cricket,” he said.
“After World Cup 2015, we have played, I think – two T20s and three ODIs. We have obviously forgotten it. It has been 24 months and exactly like what Virat [Kohli] had said, it is going to be a new match.”
More than 2015 World Cup, Mortaza made it clear that one-run defeat in the World T20 game against India in Bangalore hurt them more. “Obviously, we have been disappointed, especially in World T20. We couldn’t get 2 runs from 3 balls when two of our best batsmen [Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim] were at the crease,” he said.
“It happens sometimes in cricket, but we need to forget it and move on. We can’t invite extra pressure on ourselves thinking about what happened during the last two matches in ICC tournaments,” he added.