Close to 50 journalists turned up for the press conference at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium that Bangladesh’s coach Mizanur Rahman Babul and captain Mehedi Hasan Miraz addressed on Wednesday, ahead of their Under-19 World Cup semifinal against the West Indies. Having attended a few pressers at this venue seven months ago, this reporter can safely say that the excitement and anticipation ahead of Thursday’s match in this country is more or less the same as was during the high-profile Bangladesh-India ODI series in June last year.
Bangladesh, after all, are playing their first ever semifinal of a global event at any level — a fact that captain Miraz was made aware of again and again.
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“I am very proud to be in the semi-final for the first time. It is not pressure. We are excited to give our best,” he replied with equanimity. While listening to him, you can’t help but think that Bangladesh couldn’t have asked for a more calm leader.
It’s his second World Cup and he handles questions of all manners by the media with a disarming smile. “If we are happy already, we will have to end here. We are not entirely satisfied. We are taking it one game at a time. We are not taking it as a semi-final, rather a match that we have to win,” he says.
Since the questions and answers are predominantly in Bangla, you strain your ears to catch familiar words: You hear ‘uttenjna’ (excitement), ‘aasha (hope)’ and ‘inshallah’, but you also hear ‘Joseph’ followed by ‘khub bhalo’ often.
A transcript of this presser in English makes it evident that he was talking about Alzarri Joseph, the West Indian pace sensation, who has bowled the fastest recorded ball at the World Cup: a 147 kmph thunderbolt against Zimbabwe. The tall Antiguan has instilled fear in the hearts of batsmen with his deadly pace. In the quarterfinal match, he found an able partner in Chemar Holder, and they destroyed the Pakistan top order.
Miraz underplays the threat “We like playing fast bowlers. Playing against less pace, there’s a chance of mistiming the ball. We are always confident facing pace. We have done well in South Africa, and also against West Indies,” he says, reminding that Bangladesh defeated the West Indies 3-0 in a bilateral series before the World Cup. And Joseph was part of that team.
“We haven’t faced a really good pace bowling attack yet in this tournament which has caused problems for our openers. I hope everyone will do well in tomorrow’s game,” he adds.
A 15,000-plus crowd is also expected to attend the second semifinal. Either side hasn’t played in front of such numbers so far. It may raise their morale, but it may also be unnerving for some. The team that loses nerves will likely lose the game as well.