Dubai: An exciting start to the Asia Cup is in offing with Bangladesh announcing a strong squad for the tournament on Friday.
Bangladesh are scheduled to meet Sri Lanka in the first match of the event on September 15. Though Sri Lanka have won the tournament five times and Bangladesh are yet to win it, there is every chance of Bangladesh can pull off some impressive victories in this edition.
Bangladesh have improved drastically over the years and have even reached the final in the past three editions.
Skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza is aware that Group B opponents Sri Lanka and Afghanistan will provide strong challenges and therefore is aiming for a flying start against Sri Lanka in the opening clash.
Speaking to the media in Mirpur about his 16-member squad, Mashrafe said: “I think September 15, in particular, will be important.”
Sri Lanka have also picked an equally strong team to get a winning start. Mashrafe then went on to elaborate as to why he wants to win the first match of the Asia Cup. “If we can win the first match, I am pretty sure the confidence we will gain will make it easier to handle (Afghanistan’s) Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman or Mohammad Nabi. If the Sri Lanka match is a bad one then it will be doubly difficult. That match will set many things for us.”
Bangladesh have fitness concerns with some of their star players but they are expecting everyone to be raring to go by the time the tournament commences.
Their star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan wanted to skip the Asia Cup to have a surgery on his finger but the Bangladesh selectors have convinced him to put his surgery on hold until October when they host Zimbabwe.
Opener Tamim Iqbal too has an injured finger and uncapped left-hander Nazmul Hossain has injured his thumb. Left-handed batsman Mominul Haque, who has not played for Bangladesh since the 2015 World Cup, has been included in the squad as back-up to Iqbal and Hossain.
“He is a top-order batsman, who can play as an opener or in (the) one-down position. So we thought his inclusion might be useful in the tournament,” said former captain Habibul Bashar.
“We are hopeful they (Hossain and Iqbal) will both play. But we thought Mominul might play just in case they feel any problem.”
The Bangladesh Cricket Board has entered into a sponsorship deal with Unilever Bangladesh and hence the team will arrive donning the logo of Unilever’s product Lifebuoy on their national kit. They will also have a new coach in Steve Rhodes. He feels that his team should aim to win the opening match and over Afghanistan. “If we play well against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, then it will add to the confidence,” said Rhodes.
Bangladesh will fly into UAE on September 9.
Team; Mashrafe Bin Mortaza (Captain), Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal Khan, MD Mithun, Litton Kumer Das, Mushfiqur Rahim, Ariful Haque, Mahmud Ullah, Mosaddek Hossain Saikat, Nazmul Hossain Shanto, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Nazmul Islam Apu, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Haider Rony, Mominul Haque