Mashrafe: Bangladesh can reach cricket semis for first time

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza urged his side to be extraordinary and reach the Cricket World Cup semifinals for the first time.

"Sometimes the best teams don't win the World Cup. Sometimes the best teams don't even move into the semifinal stage. There is no pressure on us to win the World Cup or move into the semifinals," Mashrafe said on Monday.

"It is definitely possible (though) but it is really tough."

Mashrafe was speaking at his last news conference at home. Bangladesh leaves on Wednesday for Ireland for a tri-series with Ireland and the West Indies. The World Cup starts on May 30 in England and Wales.

He acknowledged they aren't one of the World Cup favorites, and urged his side to change people's minds.

"We know we have to work hard to reach our goal but we are desperate to show our mettle to the rest of the world," he said.

"We know the wickets of England will produce huge runs, and we are not used to scoring over 300 regularly. During the 2015 World Cup, the wickets of Australia and New Zealand produced huge runs, and still we moved into the quarterfinals on the back of some good pace bowling.

"There was no question of the ability of our players. Now what we have to make sure is that we show our ability to handle the pressure."

Mashrafe said the World Cup format — all 10 teams playing each other once and the top four making the semis — meant a team could play itself into the tournament after a bad start. Managing setbacks will be crucial, he added.

"Those who are expecting to play the semifinals will get lot of opportunities to come back," he said. "So we have to keep it in our mind.

"It is important to be mentally tough. There will be ups and downs aplenty, and we have to make sure we can turn things around."

Mashrafe said this will be his fourth and last World Cup. He has been playing for Bangladesh since 2001.

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More AP Cricket: www.apnews.com/Cricket and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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