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Tigers eye Asia Cup title after near misses

  • Published at 07:15 pm September 7th, 2018
Bangladesh head coach Steve Rhodes makes a point during a training session in Dhaka in August Dhaka Tribune/Md Manik

This article was published in the September issue of the Sports Tribune Magazine

The Bangladesh cricket team have set their goal for the Asia Cup – the Tigers want to finish as the champion. The belief has been derived from the massive strides made by the Tigers in ODIs over the past few years, and the most recent success, coming in the tour of the West Indies.

Bangladesh had toured the Caribbean from June to August this year and had a horrific start with a 2-0 whitewash in the two-match Test series. 

However, the group under the leadership of ODI captain Mashrafe bin Mortaza bounced back in some style to win the ODI series 2-1 and take the momentum to the T20I series where the Tigers registered a series win by a similar margin.

On top, there is the hunger in the team after the Tigers went close to multi-nation tournament wins, only to fall short by a few steps. 

The last occasion when Bangladesh broke down into tears was during the Nidahas tri-nation T20I series in April this year. The Tigers had dominatingly set up a final date with India, but lost the game by four wickets. 

The defeat margin might not highlight the intensity of the game but only if you have witnessed it would you understand the emotions of the two teams. Bangladesh needed to defend 34 runs off the last 12 balls but this was denied by wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik.

Talking of the last three editions of the Asia Cup, all hosted in Dhaka, Bangladesh played the final twice. In 2012, it was the first time the Tigers made it into a major tournament final but the dream of lifting the trophy was denied by Pakistan by just two runs. 

The next time they played a final of this tournament, in 2016, Bangladesh faced India and lost the T20I affair by eight wickets as the opponent reached the shore with seven balls to spare.

Having bagged so much experience and improvements in 50-over cricket, there is a feeling and confidence in the Bangladesh dressing room that the time might just be right for them. 

It is an unlikable fact that Mashrafe is nearing the end of his career. So there is every intention for the veteran right-arm pacer to make the tournament a special one.

Following India’s denial to host the tournament, the Asia Cup was handed to the UAE to host. The curtain of the six-nation tournament will be raised on September 15 as two-time finalist Bangladesh face five-time Asia Cup champion Sri Lanka at Dubai International Cricket Stadium. 

Bangladesh in their last Group B match will face Afghanistan on September 20 at Sheikh Zayed International Cricket Stadium. In Group A, India, Pakistan and a qualifier will battle it out.

The top two teams from each group will qualify for the Super Four League where all the nations would face off against each other. The top two teams will play the final in Dubai on September 28. 

Bangladesh will have to tolerate the scorching Middle East heat, which should be the only worry as far as condition is concerned. Bangladesh are the first team to announce the squad for the six-nation Asia Cup. 

Good news is the inclusion of all-rounder Shakib al Hasan, who put aside speculation over his availability. Injured little left finger of Shakib had him confused with the need of an immediate surgery. However, following thorough discussions involving the BCB and the medical experts, decision was reached to send Shakib under the blade following the Asia Cup.

Middle-order batsman Ariful Haque is the new name in the ODI squad for Bangladesh. The all-rounder had made it into the Bangladesh dressing room in T20Is and is now ready to debut in the 50-over format, if given the opportunity. 

Prominent names in the shape of Sabbir Rahman and Anamul Haque missed out from the ODI squad. Below-par form has been the main reason for the exclusion of the duo, but for Sabbir, there is one more reason. Disciplinary issue has also impacted over the non-selection of Sabbir. 

The Tigers are scheduled to leave Dhaka on September 9 and avail five days of practice before stepping into the tournament.

The writer of this article will be in the UAE to cover the ins and outs of the Asia Cup. Keep your eyes on the Dhaka Tribune newspaper and website for the latest updates as the six nations battle it out for the Asian title.