The Oval in South London is just four-and-a-half miles away from the Lord's Cricket Ground. And in the course of their 33-day campaign in this World Cup, to complete this journey, Bangladesh travelled a roller-coaster.
By beating South Africa in their first game at the Oval, the Tigers raised a lot of eyebrows in the cricket fraternity. Some even considered them as dark horses to make it to the semis. But since that fixture, their performance graph was on a constant downslide. There were two more victories, against West Indies and Afghanistan, and one washout against Sri Lanka. Eventually, they ended their campaign as the seventh-ranked side on the point's table.
A triumph over Pakistan at Lord's in their final fixture on Friday would have taken them to No 5. But Shaheen Shah Afridi had other ideas.
Nevertheless, overall, Bangladesh had a patchy World Cup, despite the heroics of Shakib Al Hasan. Their batting did a decent job but the bowling in the first 20 overs and fielding were the major letdowns. They dropped eight catches in the tournament and the ground fielding was not up to the mark in most of the matches.
Hence, they failed to generate any sort of momentum as a team.
"Bowling has not been up to the mark, starting from me and the others, especially the first 10 or 20 overs," skipper Mashrafe Mortaza lamented in his post-match presser at Lord's on Friday. "We needed to pick wickets. Some matches the fielding really cost us, ground fielding especially. It helps the bowlers when fielders back you up. Catches were dropped, it happens, but when it keeps happening questions will of course be asked."
The absence of an 'X-factor' in the bowling department was always a concern for Bangladesh coming into this World Cup. And as the tournament progressed, they were continuously exposed. Someone like Mustafizur Rahman took quite a few matches to attain form. Though the left-armer finished the World Cup with 20 scalps, 10 of those came in the last two games. Mostly he was effective in the death overs, whereas leaked a lot of runs earlier on.
When it comes to the new-ball attack, Bangladesh were one of the worst performing teams in this World Cup, if not the worst. For the major part of their campaign, Mortaza shared the new ball alongside young Mohammad Saifuddin. The duo looked a bit one dimensional and lacked the pace and quality to tame the opposition batters in the first powerplay. Though, in the later spells, Saifuddin did make an impact and picked up crucial breakthroughs. As a result, in the end, his post-tournament figures looked quite decent – 13 wickets in seven matches at an economy rate of 7.18.
However, Mortaza was clearly the weak link in the attack, finishing the event with just one wicket in eight games and gave away 6.44 runs per over on an average. Also, it was unfortunate that for the major part of their campaign, their fastest bowler Rubel Hossain was kept out of the eleven. One would believe, on these flat English wickets, his pace could have made a difference.
The spinners, meanwhile, did a good holding job despite the wickets not offering much assistance. Shakib's left-arm spin (11 wickets in eight matches with an economy of 5.39) was Bangladesh's go-to option whenever they needed a breakthrough in the middle overs. He was well supported by Mehidy Hasan (six wickets in seven matches with an economy rate of 5.08) and Mossadek Hossain (three wickets in seven games with an economy of 5.97). In fact, none of the spinners went for six or more runs per over in the competition, which was a fantastic achievement in these conditions.
In the batting department, Bangladesh were clearly overdependent on Shakib. Along with all the scalps, the southpaw also had 606 runs in this World Cup with a Bradmanesque average of 96.03, which included two centuries and five fifties.
"Shakib was absolutely beautiful. Batted at three, did what he could do," said Mortaza. "I really feel sorry for him. The way he played, the team could have been standing in a different zone. I think he is one of the best World Cup performers of all time. Still, we couldn't make the semifinals."
Well, the skipper had all the right to feel disappointed.
Barring Shakib, and to some extent Mushfiqur Rahim (367 runs in eight innings with an average of 52.42), none of the other batsmen were consistent enough. Especially, Tamim Iqbal, who averaged just 29.37 and was a big let down. Because of his of form as well as the recklessness of Soumya Sarkar, they never got a solid foundation at the top.
In the middle, youngsters like Liton Das, Mohammad Mithun and Mosaddek failed to justify their talent, despite getting ample opportunities. Even with all his experience, Mahmudullah did not have the kind of impact which was expected of him. As a result, often Shakib was left with too much to do with which is never an ideal scenario for a team, which aims to compete with the top sides on the big stage. Also, this team lacks a power-hitter who can up the ante in the end overs.
Overall, Bangladesh had only performed in patches. There were sparks in between; like the innings Saifuddin played against India, but those never got ignited. Interestingly, barring the game against England and Pakistan, Bangladesh were extremely competitive against all the other teams. But points are given for winning matches, not just for being competitive on the field. Hence, the seventh position perhaps rightly justifies their campaign.
Going forward, it is time for the Bangladesh think-tank to invest in new talents. Not to forget that the next World Cup will be in India, where conditions will suit their side. With captain Mortaza likely to retire, it is time for Shakib to take over in all three formats and build a team for the future.