Bangladesh head coach Steve Rhodes feels the underdogs tag could help them when they take on Pakistan in the virtual semi-final at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
“Pakistan, let's be honest, will be the favourites for this contest but that puts us in a nice position,” he said on the eve of the final Super Four encounter. “They know we are a dangerous team. To go into the game as a slight underdog, we can really make that work for us.”
Both Pakistan and Bangladesh have been fairly inconsistent in this tournament. They won one match and lost one in the group stages, then both were beaten by the Rohit Sharma-led side in their respective Super Four games. However, the two somehow managed to defeat Afghanistan in close-fought matches and have kept themselves alive in the competition.
“They (Pakistan) are tough but an unpredictable team. I am hoping they will have an off day. We don't know what Pakistan is going to turn up,” said Rhodes.
“They are playing with a little lack of confidence. But they are very dangerous team. On their day, they can really pull things together and play some good cricket. We are also a dangerous team. So, it will be a great contest.”
Bangladesh's biggest problem has been the form of their openers. After Tamim Iqbal fractured his wrist in the first match, the opening duo of Liton Das and Nazmul Hossain have failed to make any impact.
Das managed to score 41 in the last match against Afghanistan but it came after scores of 0, 6 and 7 in his first three matches. Meanwhile Hossain, who replaced Tamim in the XI, only has 20 runs to his name in three outings at an average of 6.67.
"Of course we’d love to get off to good starts. Every coach would want that. It doesn’t always happen. Sadly, Tamim breaking his finger in that first game was a big blow to us,” said Rhodes.
“We picked Shanto (Hossain) to take Tamim's place and give him an opportunity as a young man who has got a lot of talent, as a lot of Bangladeshi young batsmen have. And he's not quite done it yet, so his place will be looked at in selection. We'll go through the side this afternoon – (skipper) Mashrafe Mortaza, myself and the selectors – and we will be looking at all the team. I won’t be revealing any plans on the side. But of course we’ll be looking at if it is a little bit of a concern.”
Even in the game against Afghanistan, Bangladesh were reduced to 87 for 5 and it was only because of Imrul Kayes (72*) and Mahmudullah's (74) 128-run partnership that they managed to post a fighting total.
Keeping the travel and conditions in mind, Rhodes said it hasn't been easy for the team to get going. “The wicket in Abu Dhabi tends to be on the slow side. It might be a good thing and may make the ball come onto the bat nicely. It will be interesting to see if their pace will actually make the wicket play well for our batsmen," he said.
“It's been a tough schedule with lots of travel. Abu Dhabi is a long journey. We stay in the far-end of Dubai so perhaps that's an extra half-hour. The travel, as well as the conditions, has been difficult.”
Kayes and Mustafizur Rahman, who played key role in Bangladesh's three-run victory over Afghanistan, suffered cramps during the game but Rhodes confirmed that both are fine and ready to go.
“We are certainly a lot better and looking forward to the challenge. To be in the semi-final is what we wanted when we set off from Bangladesh. We wanted to be in this position to try and beat Pakistan and get through to a wonderful final against India,” he added.