Bangladesh one-day international skipper Mashrafee bin Murtaza on Thursday said that the chances of the Tigers in the forthcoming Asia Cup in UAE would hinge on their performance against Sri Lanka in the opening match.
The Tigers were drawn in Group B along with two familiar opponents, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, and would begin their campaign against the Islanders on September 15 in Dubai.
‘The main thing, our first match is very crucial. If we can play well in the first match I think the pressure will get reduced for us,’ Mashrafee told reporters in a press-conference in Mirpur.
‘This year’s format is quite different. With the addition of two new teams, we will have to qualify from the knock-out [group] stage.’
Bangladesh, which never won the Asia Cup, hosted last three editions of the tournament and reached the final in two of those occasions.
They lost to India in the final of previous edition, which was played in Twenty20 format in 2016.
The biennial tournament returned to Bangladesh’s favourite 50-over format this year, brightening the chance of Mashrafee-led side lifting their maiden title.
Mashrafee said Bangladesh also should be careful about Afghanistan, who defeated them in a Twenty20 series in June and got the potential to cause an upset or two in the Asia Cup.
‘Every team is threat for us. Especially those who are in our group….Afghanistan have a strong bowling unit and Sri Lanka got all-round ability in the team, so anything can happen.’
Speaking on the team’s prospect of lifting the title, Mashrafee was not in favour of thinking too far and reckoned India as top favourites.
‘If you look at the teams India are far better team compared to others. Pakistan will play like home team. But I believe we have the ability to beat them,’ he said.
‘The point is that how we start and if we can qualify for the next round. Here there are different calculations. If everything goes alright we are not lagging that behind,’ he said.
Coach Steve Rhodes was equally careful about raising the expectation on his charges.
‘If I was looking at a crystal ball, I could have told you that we have won the Asia Cup. But I don’t have it,’ he said.
‘There are other mighty teams in Asia – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. We believe we can. If we try our best, give the 100 per cent, and play some good cricket and believe we can win.’
Rhodes said Bangladesh should take confidence from their recent 2-1 series victory in West Indies- the side’s first ever series win in abroad for nine years.
‘We are going there full of confidence. We are ranked higher than the West Indies but those were still tough games,’ he said.
‘We have two games to qualify, which is the most important thing,’ added the coach.
‘We shouldn’t assume that we will get into the next group. We play well against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, and 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?’
Bangladesh will leave home for the tournament on September 9.
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