'Bangladesh is not such a good team in T20' - Russell Domingo gave a fiery reaction like burning oil hearing this statement. Later, in the same context, the captain of the Bangladesh team Mahmudullah Riyad spoke in a similar tune with the coach.
Bangladesh has ruled convincingly in three consecutive T20 series. In this mercurial format of cricket, Bangladesh has been on a dream run winning all three series. After the successful tour in Zimbabwe, the Tigers waved the red and green flag with flying colours in the home series against Australia and New Zealand.
Two series wins against two big teams right before the World Cup is a huge boost and inspiration for Bangladesh. And Mahmudullah wants to do something special in this year's T20 World Cup by using this inspiration. Before leaving for the World Cup mission, he spoke to The Business Standard about the team, the team's expectations, the team's strength, his own captaincy, the tournament's favourites and many more.
TBS: You have already answered many questions about the World Cup preparations. Even then one question arises and that is, how satisfied are you with the preparation?
Mahmudullah: I am satisfied with the way we have prepared ourselves. Because personally, I think it was very important to get in the habit of winning before the World Cup. The biggest thing is, the confidence that will work in you if you are in a winning streak, you will not have that confidence if you play good cricket and lose. We are on a winning streak; it will help us prepare for the World Cup. We want to start the World Cup with this confidence.
TBS: Dubai's wicket will certainly not be like Australia's or New Zealand's, nor will it be slow-turning. Is it going to be helpful for Bangladesh? How much role will the series wins against the two big teams play?
Mahmudullah: I think the wickets of Oman and UAE will be sporting. Because in most of the ICC events, wickets are sporting. I believe we can do really good on sporting wickets. Australia and New Zealand are two of the biggest teams in world cricket. The series wins against them will give us confidence and will serve as inspiration in the World Cup.
TBS: This is going to be your first World Cup as a captain. How thrilling is this feeling?
Mahmudullah: Of course I am very excited. There will be thrills. More than thrills, there are a lot of responsibilities. We aspire to fulfil the expectations of the spectators and fans, the expectations of the team, the expectations of the countrymen. The goal will be to do something special.
TBS: What is the realistic expectation from the team as captain? Against which teams are Bangladesh most likely to win in the main stage?
Mahmudullah: The expectation is in us and I don't want to disclose it completely. We all know what our expectations are. Because when we talk within the team, we know what we want to do in the World Cup. Every team is strong; we need to have the mentality to play offensive cricket. What I believe is that to beat the best team you have to be the best team. Or, if you want to be the best team, you have to beat the best team.
TBS: Is this the best time for the young cricketers to take responsibility on their shoulders?
Mahmudullah: That can be said. Moreover, I believe the youngsters will contribute to the team with great performances.
TBS: In this World Cup, Bangladesh is the youngest in average age. Even then, this time the expectations are highest. What do you think about the matter?
Mahmudullah: The balance of our team is quite good with the combination of young and experienced. This is a big positive aspect of our team, which will help us to play well in the World Cup.
TBS: There are many who are going to play the World Cup for the first time. As such the team is less experienced. There is also the matter of staying in the Bio-Bubble. All in all, what is the mental state of the team? Are the players getting enough motivation?
Mahmudullah: Since we have played very good cricket in the last three series and won all three series, this is the biggest motivation for us. We are in a good rhythm, we have a good team spirit. It is a big motivation. And when you play for the country, there is no greater motivation. When you represent the country at the highest level, that should be the biggest motivation. The mental state of the team is quite good. Since we had a great vacation, I hope everyone had a good time with their family. After spending such time returning to practice, everyone will be charged up.
TBS: Excluding comparisons, your record in the T20 World Cup as an individual is not that bright. This time you are in great form. What are your expectations with your batting?
Mahmudullah: Maybe my batting performance in previous World Cups has not been good. But at the moment I am feeling quite good with my batting. It is my expectation that I will be able to bat better and contribute to the team.
TBS: Does the current Bangladesh team have any aspect that can make Bangladesh different from other teams in the World Cup?
Mahmudullah: I think our fielding department is pretty good right now. You see, in the last few series we have had some great catches, some great runs out. We saved some match-saving boundaries, saving two extra runs. We do not always notice these but these are the little moments that become essential in this format. So we have made a good improvement in this regard. Even then there is no endpoint to the improvements. Our bowling department is doing very well. I think when the opportunity comes in the World Cup, our batters have to take a little responsibility to keep the team ahead.
TBS: Which team seems to be the favourites in this year's World Cup? Do you see an opportunity to put someone ahead?
Mahmudullah: I believe every team in the World Cup is strong and any team can win the World Cup. The format is such that any team can beat anyone on a given day. It is enough if another team plays a little better. I think every team would want to do that.