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DHAKA: Three cricketers, considered the backbone of Bangladesh’s golden generation, are expected to make their swansong at the World Cup, after dragging their side up from whipping-boy status over 15 years.

When Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad came onto the scene in the mid-2000s, Bangladesh were mostly embarrassing as a national side.

But over the years they shed the pushover tag, especially in one-day internationals – the format used in the World Cup starting in India next week.

Bangladesh had won only 40 of their 218 games – just over 18 percent – across all formats when Shakib, Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah, along with the retired Mashrafe Mortaza and the axed Tamim Iqbal, first played together in a Twenty20 international against Sri Lanka in Johannesburg in 2007.

Only a few of those victories had come against higher-ranked teams.

But over the next 15 years they won nearly 40 percent of their games, including at least five wins against each Test-playing country.

And the 3-0 Twenty20 series win against world champions England this year ticked another box – at least one series win against all Test-playing countries, in one format or another.

But the series victories were never capped with a trophy from a major competition.

Aside from a tri-series in Ireland, involving the hosts and the West Indies ahead of the 2019 World Cup, Bangladesh have never won a tournament involving more than two teams.

They reached three Asia Cup finals, in 2012, 2016, and 2018, but lost them all.

The team reached the semi-finals of the 2017 Champions Trophy in England, only to lose against India at Edgbaston.

“They certainly deserved better as a group,” said Habibul Bashar, who led Bangladesh at the 2007 World Cup.

“Those players did something for Bangladesh cricket that had never happened in the past. They achieved a lot, definitely. “But it is a matter of regret that they could not win a big trophy yet.”

Ranked seventh in ODIs, and the team unsettled, their chances of breaking their duck at the World Cup in India are slim.

The furthest progress they have made at a previous edition was a quarter-final berth in 2015.

Veteran journalist and cricket commentator MM Kayser told AFP: “The kind of buildup we have seen, well, I cannot be too optimistic about Bangladesh’s chances this time.”

Shakib was only appointed as captain three months ahead of the World Cup and the build-up to the event was marred by a spat with Tamim who was branded “childish” by the new skipper.

Former Bangladesh opener Javed Omar, who played with Shakib, Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah in the early days of their careers, believes only a “miracle” can see them win the tournament.

“They are all good players, but we have already seen their limit in international cricket,” he said.

“To go to the next level like winning the World Cup maybe they need to play super extraordinary or produce a kind of miracle.”

Bangladesh start their World Cup campaign against Afghanistan in Dharamshala on October 7.

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