Semi-finals may still be far-fetched for Asian champs Bangladesh

The rise and rise of Bangladesh women (4:53)

Jahanara Alam, who starred in Bangladesh's title win in the Asia Cup, and coach Anju Jain on how a changed mindset has contributed to the side's progress (4:53)

Squad list

Salma Khatun (capt), Rumana Ahmed, Jahanara Alam, Fargana Haque, Khadija Tul Kubra, Fahima Khatun, Ayesha Rahman, Shamima Sultana (wk), Nahida Akter, Panna Ghosh, Ritu Moni, Sanjida Islam, Nigar Sultana, Lata Mondal, Sharmin Akter Supta. Stand-by: Sharmin Sultana, Surya Azmin, Shaila Sharmin, Sultana Khatun

World T20 pedigree

In only their second World T20 two years ago in India, Bangladesh ought to have improved following wins against Sri Lanka and Ireland during the 2014 edition at home. Instead, they returned winless and dejected after losing to the hosts, England, West Indies and Pakistan. More than the defeats, the margins must have saddened them - 72 runs, 36 runs, 49 runs and nine wickets.

They carried that form into 2018 too, after a T20I drought in 2017, losing four straight matches against South Africa and Sri Lanka. And then came the dramatic turnaround. They beat higher-ranked teams like Pakistan and India on their way to their maiden Asia Cup crown (by beating India again) with their unbeaten streak in five matches.

If that wasn't enough, they then went to the Netherlands for the World T20 Qualifiers and won that title too. They topped Group A with a net run rate of over three, they bowled out the hosts for 42, they skittled UAE for 39, and did not let any team score over 100 against them in the entire tournament. In impressive all-round performances, they saw more batsmen contributing consistently instead of relying on only one or two names.

Barring their recent 3-0 series loss to Pakistan at home, their phenomenal form this year will give them heaps of confidence going into the World T20.

Recent T20I form

Bangladesh have finished two multi-nation tournaments unbeaten this year - the Asia Cup and the World T20 Qualifiers. They also beat Ireland 2-1 in a bilateral series in the summer, but big losses in the recent series against Pakistan could be a cause for concern. If they can bring their big-tournament form and vigour back, they could easily surprise some heavyweights again.

The captain and coach

Salma Khatun is synonymous with the Bangladesh women's cricket team, having been around for more than a decade. She climbed to No. 1 in the ICC women's allrounder rankings in 2015, and became so popular that she was featured in billboards around the country. She called it the "greatest moment" of her life when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spotted her in one of those billboards and mentioned her while stating how women in Bangladesh aren't too far behind men.

Salma has taken 44 wickets in 53 T20Is with her accurate offspin, conceding runs at 4.91 per over. She was at the crease when Bangladesh completed the Asia Cup triumph against India, quite appropriate given her stature in the team.

Bangladesh's turnaround in form this year has come soon after former India wicketkeeper Anju Jain took over as the coach in May, replacing former England allrounder David Capel. Jain is a Level-B certified BCCI coach and has extensively taken part in exchange programmes with Cricket Australia. She previously coached India at the 2012 Women's World T20 and the 2013 World Cup. She is also the second India woman cricketer to land the Bangladesh job, after Mamta Maben. Her aim is to make Bangladesh one of the top four sides in the world.

Best players

Rumana Ahmed is a batting allrounder who bowls handy legspin. In the Asia Cup final, her two wickets and 23 runs were pivotal to get Bangladesh to their maiden international trophy, as well as earn her the Player-of-the-Match award. She continued her good form during the World T20 Qualifiers in Netherlands, and in the home series against Pakistan in October.

Earlier in 2018, Rumana spent time in Brisbane during the Women's Big Bash League, where she attended training sessions with Stuart MacGill. After she lost two of her bats she was given during that trip, she sought Tamim Iqbal's help and he duly obliged, presenting her with a bat ahead of the Asia Cup campaign. Already the ODI captain, Rumana is seen as the future of Bangladesh women's cricket because of her performance and humility.

Khadija Tul Kubra recently became the fourth Bangladeshi bowler, after Mashrafe Mortaza, Rubel Hossain and Mustafizur Rahman, to take a six-wicket haul in an ODI. Her figures of 6 for 20 helped Bangladesh win at least one game against Pakistan in Cox's Bazar, after they conceded the T20I series meekly.

Kubra hails from Bogra where she learned offspin under the revolutionary coach Muslim Uddin, who used meagre means to teach girls how to play cricket and produced several international cricketers. An accurate bowler, Kubra is currently Bangladesh's leading ODI wicket-taker in women's cricket, having also taken 33 wickets in T20Is.

Where will they finish

Placed in Group A along with West Indies, England, Sri Lanka and South Africa, Bangladesh will have to pull their A game from the first match itself against the hosts. They may eye Sri Lanka again to get a win under their belt, like they did in 2014, but they will have to win consistently to edge out one of the bigger names for a semi-final berth. Given the pedigree in the line-ups of defending champions West Indies, and last year's World Cup semi-finalists England and South Africa, Bangladesh's target of ensuring "we don't have to play the qualifiers anymore," according to the coach may prove harder than it appears.

With additional inputs from Mohammad Isam