It was 20 years ago that a bunch of boys decked in green walked on to the grounds in England in a World Cup match for the first time ever in their history. Not much was expected of them and many thought they were there to just make up the numbers and play a part in a few drab matches that every quadrennial championship has to offer.

And their debut game against New Zealand didn’t offer much to justify otherwise. Bowled out for a mere 116, the Kiwis barely broke a sweat to thwart aside the challenge and move on to the bigger fishes while everyone forgot that a team like Bangladesh was even part of this carnival. That perception soon changed as the ‘Tigers’ recorded their first win against Scotland before humiliating Pakistan (their only loss in the group stages) to cap off a memorable debut.

Over the years, though Bangladesh has never really challenged for the World Cup title, they have been the side that most of the top dogs have been wary off. Be it India in 2003 or England in 2011 and 2015, the team from the sub-continent has been a thorn in the flesh of a few title challengers. And when the World Cup returns to its birthplace once again, Bangladesh will hope to be more than just a side that makes up the numbers.

The team led by the experienced Mashrafe Mortaza come into the World Cup on the back of a fine run in the 50-over format. Since the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, Bangladesh have won three of the six bilateral series till date and have also come agonizingly close to beating India in the Asia Cup.

These results have been largely possible because of the likes of Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal. Tamim has been one of the world’s leading ODI batsman over the last four years and Shakib is ranked as the second-best all-rounder in ODI cricket.

AFP / Paul Faith

Behind only the phenomenal Rashid Khan in the ICC’s ODI all-rounder rankings, Shakib has been Bangladesh’s go-to man on many occasions.

While Shakib has been their saviour on many occasions, Tamim’s contribution on top of the order is something that’s helped Bangladesh take the challenge to the opposition time and again.

The big-hitting opener has excelled in all three formats of the international game, including hitting 45 half-centuries and passing 100 on eleven occasions in 188 ODI innings. His latest half-century helped Bangladesh beat West Indies at the start of the Ireland Tri-Nation Series and was an important return to form in ODIs.

Previously, he hit 278 runs in the test series with New Zealand, while his match-winning ability was laid bare when he hammered 141 not out in the Bangladesh Premier League final. Since the last World Cup, Tamim averages more than 60 in ODI cricket – among the world’s best over the last four years.

These two coupled with Mortaza’s experince with the new ball make Bangladesh a difficult proposition at the World Cup. And if you still think there’s nothing much these guys can do at the biggest stage of all, a glance at their history in this competition could persuade you to think otherwise.