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Asia Cup 2018: Important to Start on Winning Note, Says Bangladesh Captain Mashrafe Mortaza

Cricketnext Staff | Updated: September 7, 2018, 12:49 PM IST
Asia Cup 2018: Important to Start on Winning Note, Says Bangladesh Captain Mashrafe Mortaza

Mashrafe Mortaza. (Getty Images)

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Bangladesh will share Group B with Sri Lanka and Afghanistan in the upcoming Asia Cup and captain Mashrafe Mortaza wants his team to start their campaign on a winning note.

The tournament will be played in United Arab Emirates from 15 to 28 September, with Bangladesh taking on Sri Lanka in Dubai in the tournament opener.

“I think every team is a threat for us,” Mortaza said on Thursday after the team’s practice in Dhaka.

“If you look at the bowling strength of Afghanistan and all-round potency of the Sri Lankans, anything can happen. So, for us, the opening game is the most important. If we can do well in the opening game we have a chance to progress further in the tournament.”

Each group has three teams. Group A comprise of traditional powerhouses India and Pakistan along with qualifier Hong Kong. Given the competition, there is very little margin for error, and for Bangladesh the fitness of ace all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan is of utmost importance.

It will get tricky for the Tigers if they can’t get past Sri Lanka because their next opponent Afghanistan beat them 3-0 in a Twenty20 International series earlier in the year in Dehradun.

While the format in the Emirates is not the same, the threat of Afghanistan’s star spinners Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi is well known.

“If we can win the opening match we are sure it will help us to handle Rashid and Mujeeb much better,” said Mortaza of the game in Abu Dhabi on 20 September. “But if don't do well in the opening game, it will be even twice as difficult to beat them. The first game will set the tone for us.”

Bangladesh head coach Steve Rhodes has done what he could to protect his team in that aspect as they have brought wrist-spinners to the nets during the camp in a bit to get battle-ready.

“I don't think there's a fear factor,” Rhodes said. “We brought Likhon [Jubair Hossain] and Tanbir [Hayder] in the nets. Rishad [Hossain] is in the Under-19s. We tried to include some leg-spinners so that our batsmen get some practice.”

Rhodes though admitted that his side should be cautious against Afghanistan. “I think we should respect Afghanistan. Some quality cricketers play for Afghanistan. They will be respectful of our cricketers too, even though they beat us in the T20s. It will be a really good contest,” he said.

Bangladesh come into the tournament high on confidence having won the ODI series against the West Indies in the Caribbean 2-1

“We are going there full of confidence. We are ranked higher than the West Indies but those were still tough games. Winning there gave the team a lot of confidence,” agreed Rhodes.

“We have two games to qualify (for the knockouts), which is the most important thing. We shouldn't assume that we will get into the next group. We play well against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, then it will add to the confidence. Then if we are in the last stages of the tournament, why wouldn't you believe that you could win?"
First Published: September 7, 2018, 12:37 PM IST
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