Melbourne, Australia: After leading Bangladesh to its first-ever World Cup quarterfinal, captain Mashrafe Mortaza said the pressure is now off his players as they excitedly look forward to Thursday's match against unbeaten India.
Bangladesh eliminated England from Pool A before falling to New Zealand by three wickets in a well-played, high-scoring match last week.
"The group stage was more important for us because we knew that we have to go through because back home the people are expecting we can beat some bigger sides," Mortaza said Wednesday. "That was more pressure, I think. For tomorrow, the boys are very relaxed.
"It is going to be a very exciting match for us because we feel very proud and very good in ourselves," he added.
The Indian players are just as excited ahead of the Melbourne Cricket Ground match after brushing off a lackluster test and one-day series in Australia this summer to set up a strong platform for their World Cup defense.
"We have done well in batting, bowling and fielding, so now we have three games to go," India batsman Suresh Raina said. "You can't take lightly Bangladesh. They have done well against India, especially in ICC Trophy, and we lost against them in (in the 2007 World Cup) at the same time, we lost to them against in Asia Cup."
While Bangladesh's five-wicket win to eliminate India in the World Cup group stage in 2007 can't help but boost player confidence, Mortaza — who took 4-38 in that match — played down its significance to the 2015 team.
"I think short version cricket depends on the particular day and how you play that day. So we hope that tomorrow we will come out with a good plan and execute our plan well so that it will be an exciting match," he said.
India's fans have been out in force throughout the World Cup and the MCG is expected to be close to capacity on Thursday. A crowd of more than 85,000 packed Australia's biggest cricket ground when India met South Africa in the pool stage.
"It feels really good to be playing at the MCG, it is a huge stadium and it's full of Indian fans," Rainer said. "The crowd expects us to do well and we have shown we can do well. We are all excited about the match, playing at the MCG and I'm sure we will do well."
Mortaza said he hopes his team won't be overawed by the massive, rowdy Indian fan contingent.
"We know that there will be 95,000 people that will be coming to the ground and most of them will be Indian supporters, but as a professional cricketer we have to concentrate on cricket and can handle it," he said. "And obviously, Bangladesh supporters will be there, so we cannot ask (to be) equal, but hopefully we'll be fine."
Mortaza said support has been incredibly strong back home since the team played its first World Cup in 1999.
"The last 15 or 17 years they have been always with us," he said. "Doesn't matter if we win or lose, they always come to the field and keep supporting us. ... That was amazing to see. I'm sure they'll do it tomorrow, as well."