Kuldip Lal, AFP
New Delhi: Bangladesh’s stunning progress in the World Cup has given cricket lovers in India reason to cheer again after their own team was knocked out in the first round.
The giant-killing feats of Habibur Bashar’s men have revived interest in the tournament for millions of Indians, who now want both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to advance to the semi-finals.
That Bangladesh caused India’s World Cup exit with a shock five-wicket win in the preliminary round mattered little as fans shared the joy of their unheralded neighbours.
“They deserve their success,” said Delhi student Shoumik Bose. “I had stopped watching the World Cup after India were defeated, but Bangladesh has forced me to switch on my TV again.”
Another fan, Venayak Gupta, added: “With India and Pakistan both gone, my interest is only in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It will be great if an Asian country wins the World Cup.”
While Sri Lanka are well-placed to make the semi-finals with six points after three games, Bangladesh must defeat England, Ireland and the West Indies in their remaining matches to advance.
Few would have given ninth-ranked Bangladesh a chance before the World Cup began, but the momentum gained by the stunning win over South Africa on Saturday has left critics excited.
“They were brilliant against the world’s top side like South Africa,” said former Indian all-rounder Mohinder Amarnath, who coached Bangladesh for a brief period in the 1990s.
“This side is confident. They know they can win.”
Even India’s cricket administrators, who have rarely taken Bangladesh seriously, are now singing a different tune.
“Everyone is harping on how India poorly fared at the World Cup, but one must give credit to Bangladesh who played so well,” said Indian cricket board treasurer N. Srinivasan.
India, who helped Bangladesh gain Test status in 2000, is the only Test-playing nation that has not hosted their neighbours in the belief that a series against them will be a financial disaster.
“After years of being snubbed by big brother, the little ‘un turned around and administered an embarrassing slap in the face,“ the British daily, The Guardian, wrote after India’s defeat in the World Cup.
“The minnow talk can end here and now. Bangladesh cricket has arrived and, with 150 million passionate followers, is here to stay.
“What price an invitation to India now? And wouldn’t it be priceless if the subcontinent’s new tigers turned it down?”
India are due to play three one-day internationals and two Tests in Bangladesh next month, a tour that has assumed greater significance after the World Cup debacle.
India will go on the three-week tour with an interim cricket manager in Test star-turned-commentator Ravi Shastri following coach Greg Chappell’s decision not to renew his two-year contract.
Rahul Dravid will continue as captain, but India’s cricket chiefs have instructed selectors to pick a “young team” in a bid to make a fresh start in world cricket.