KARACHI: Bangladesh cricket team — for very long — was termed as a project which left many frustrated, but that image has changed in the recent past to say the least.
In the upcoming Asia Cup, they will enter as more than just a team who is there to fill the numbers and will be hoping to go one step better than they did in 2012.
The Tigers will come full of confidence into the contest after registering an impressive series win overs West Indies in their last ODI series — and that too away from home.
The series was Bangladesh’s first win outside of Asia in nine years which must be a real morale booster for Mashrafe Mortaza’s men.
The Tigers came close to winning the title in 2012 — which was the last time the tournament was played in its traditional 50-over format — but it was a story of being so close yet so far as Pakistan edged them out in the final by a miniscule margin of two runs.
The squad offers a nice blend of youth and experience which can pose a significant problem for their opponents if it performs in accordance with their potential.
Led by experienced Mortaza, Bangladesh have the likes of skilful all-rounder Shakibal Hasan, talented wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim, flamboyant opener Tamim Iqbal and pacer Mustafizur Rahman to count on in their ranks.
But their injury concerns could have a major bearing on how they progress during the tournament.
Iqbal’s finger issue is a concern while uncapped left-hander Nazmul Hossain injured his left thumb during a training session.
Shakib — who was keen to skip the Asia Cup to have a surgery on a finger — is in the ranks as well as selectors think that he is fit enough to play.
Mominul Haque, who regularly plays Test cricket for Bangladesh, was called as backup for these injured players after performing really well during Bangladesh A’s recent tour of Ireland, which included a brilliant innings of 182 of just 132 balls.
Bangladesh have historically relied on their spinners to churn out wickets, especially in the sub-continent, but their fast-bowling attack has also improved considerably in the past two years under the tutelage of former West Indies fast bowler Courtney Walsh.
The likes of Rubel Hossain, Abu Hider and Rahman have benefitted from the former Windies cricketer’s presence which could come in handy despite the lack of assistance for seamers in the UAE.
In the recent past, Bangladesh batsman have found playing leg-spin difficult which could become a major issue in the Asia Cup as nearly all opposing teams have at least one quality leg-spinner in their ranks.
Their deficiencies against leg-spin were also evident during the tour of West Indies where Devendra Bishoo troubled them a fair bit.
The Tigers don’t have enough experience of playing in the UAE apart from a handful of cricketers who featured for various different franchises during the first three editions of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
Bangladesh start their campaign with the match against Sri Lanka on September 15 in Dubai. They will then face Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi on September 20.
Vs SL - Matches 44, won 6, lost 36,
Vs AFG - Matches 5, won 3, lost 2,
Asia Cup: Matches 37, won 4, lost 33
Asia Cup achievements
First appearance in 1986
Finished last in 2014
Best result: Runner-up in 2012
Tamim Iqbal (Batsman)
The hard-hitting opener is one of the best bets for Bangladesh in the batting department. Since making his ODI debut in 2007, Iqbal’s presence at the top of the pile has gone a long way in resolving the team’s opening woes.
The 29-year-old is at times considered a tad bit inconsistent in the 50-over format but his form in ODI cricket has been anything but that.
In ODIs during 2018, Iqbal has scored 539 runs in eight matches at an outstanding average of 89.83 — making him Bangladesh’s highest run-getter during the year so far.
With 6305 runs to his credit, Iqbal also sits pretty at the top as the country’s all-time leading run scorer in one-day internationals.
He was instrumental in the side’s recent triumph in the West Indies where he notched up two centuries and a fifty and also bagged the award for the player of the series.
The 29-year-old’s ability to take the attack to the opposing bowlers has been part and parcel of his game since the inception of his career.
He loves putting new ball bowlers on the back foot with his aggressive approach and bearing in mind the pitches in UAE – which don’t offer much in terms of seam and swing— Iqbal could pose a lot of threat if he gets into his groove.
Shakibal Hasan (all-rounder)
Shakibal Hasan has consistently been termed as one of the best all-rounders in world of cricket and it is not surprising that he currently is ranked the number one all-rounder in the 50-over format.
The left-hander has established himself as one of the key figures in Bangladesh cricket through his skilled spin bowling and as a batsman who has, both, the ability to finish the innings with some crisp hitting while also the skill to build an innings in times of need.
Shakib has played a major role in Bangladesh’s improvement in cricket starting with the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Since the beginning of 2015, he has been, in both bowling and batting department, team’s third-highest wicket-taker with 55 scalps and run-scorer with 1456 runs.
His importance to the side can be assessed from the fact that he has an average of 50.57 in matches won by Bangladesh with six of his seven ODI hundreds also coming in the winning cause. He has also picked up 129 wickets at an average of 22.93 in the same regard.
During the Asia Cup in 2012, Shakib accumulated 237 runs, including three fifties while also taking six wickets which played a key role in the team’s run to the final.
It was unfortunate that they lost a closely contested finale against the Men in Green but Shakib will be keen on taking his side one step further this time around.
Rubel Hossain (Bowler)
Rubel Hossain isn’t a very tall bowler but his ball skits of the pitch and he generates quite some pace by bending his back.
He tends to be aggressive in his bowling approach and does not shy away from bowling a quick bouncer at the batsman in between overs.
Hossain, like most youngsters in the sub-continent, began playing the taped tennis-ball cricket during his young days.
He came under prominence during a talent hunt programme where he was declared the fastest bowler.
Hossain made his ODI debut for Bangladesh in 2009 and immediately made a name for himself by taking 4/33 which led to the side’s upset win over Sri Lanka in Dhaka.
On 29 October 2013, he became the third bowler from his country to take a hat-trick in ODIs — which came against New Zealand in Mirpur, where he claimed scalps of Corey Anderson, Brendon McCullum and Jimmy Neesham on successive deliveries.
Hossain was briefly out of the side but then he came back into reckoning due to injury to Mustafizur Rahman at the beginning of the 2017 Champions Trophy.
Picked as a replacement, Hossain has, since then, once against become a regular feature in the side. He is Bangladesh’s highest wicket taker in 2018 with 14 wickets in eight matches at an average of 18.21.
With the likes of Captain Mortaza, Rahman and Shakib already in their bowling armoury, Bangladesh will rely on Hossain’s pace to add another dimension to their bowling attack.