Afghanistan are on a high in the DP World Asia Cup 2022. The emphatic win over Sri Lanka would have given them so much confidence that some of it will percolate into the game against Bangladesh on Tuesday (August 30). That would exactly be Bangladesh’s worry when they play their opening Group B fixture at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
The worry was not evident in Sridharan Sriram, the technical consultant of Bangladesh. While admitting that Afghanistan are a dangerous side, Sriram said: “Afghanistan doesn’t depend on Rashid Khan alone. Rashid Khan is a world-class player, but there are others also. So we have prepared for Afghanistan as a team, not just Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi or Fazalhaq [Farooqi].”
Bangladesh haven’t had a good run of late in the T20 Internationals. That seemed to have forced a change in the coaching staff, with Sriram taking over the team for the Asia Cup. But his first assignment is not easy against the aggressive Afghans, with Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq sharing the new ball before the spinners apply the squeeze in the middle overs.
The opening pair of Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah Gurbaz may love the shorter boundaries of the Sharjah stadium, but the pitch is no longer a batter’s paradise. It calls for a hard graft to score runs initially, so the Afghans may have to be more circumspect.
Afghan leggie Rashid Khan says although they played well against Sri Lanka, they are not carried away by the win. “We look at one game at a time. Tomorrow’s is a new game. We plan for every game,” he said at a press conference.
Bangladesh’s fortunes revolve around skipper Shakib Al Hasan, a top-order batsman and a quality spinner. The return of Mushfiqur Rahim and Mohammad Saifuddin will boost Bangladesh, and coach Sriram have high hopes for left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman.
The teams haven’t played each other in over three years. It could well be an exciting contest. Over to Sharjah.