Despite their recent up and down form in international cricket, Bangladesh, under the inspirational leadership of Mashrafe Mortaza, still remain a team to watch out for in the 50-over format. There is enough experience, potential and depth in quality in their ranks, which makes them a dangerous side in white-ball cricket. Especially when they play in Asian conditions, no team in the world can become complacent while taking on the Tigers. And having beaten a strong Windies outfit in the ODI as well in the T20I series during their recent tour of the Caribbean, Bangladesh are currently oozing with confidence prior to the start of their Asia Cup campaign.
The 16-member squad, which will be featuring in the tournament in the UAE starting from 15 September, has a nice blend of youth and experience. The team will look towards its 'Fab five' – Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal, Mahmudullah along with skipper Mashrafe Mortaza – to take the bulk of the responsibilities.
Interestingly, the national selectors have decided to include Shakib in the squad despite all the concerns surrounding his injured finger. This shows the desperation in their camp to do well in this tournament.
Nevertheless, along with the seniors, there are the youngsters like Liton Das, Mosaddek Hossain, Abu Hider and Mehidy Hasan, who are expected to play key roles in this line-up. However, in place of their designated finisher Sabbir Rahman, who is currently out of contention due to disciplinary issues, the selectors have picked Mohammad Mithun as well as Ariful Haque to play the same role with the bat. The duo featured for the Bangladesh A team in their recent tour of Ireland and shaped up fairly well.
Meanwhile, with the likes of Tamim, Mushfiqur, Shakib and Mahmudullah around, going into this Asia Cup, batting undoubtedly seems to be Bangladesh's strength. Test specialist Mominul Haque has also been included into the team as a back-up for Shakib.
Furthermore, there are a lot of expectations from Liton, who in all likelihood, will open the innings alongside Tamim Iqbal. Back home, the right-hander is being considered as one of the future stars of Bangladesh cricket following his performances in the top-order during their last tour of South Africa.
When it comes to the bowling department, there is variety in Bangladesh's ranks.
Firstly, on those slow, low pitches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Mustafizur Rahman needs to play an important role with the new ball as well as in the death overs. His 10 overs will be absolutely crucial. Also, on slow pitches, Mortaza is not an easy bowler to attack either. Apart from those two, one of Rubel Hossain and left-armer Abu Hider will be the third seamer. In the Caribbean, both of them bowled effectively and got important breakthroughs for the team. Experienced pacer Nazmul Hossain is also been picked in the squad as a backup option.
The spin-department will be taken care of by Shakib, Mehidy and the part-time option of Mosaddek. There is also young left-armer Nazmul Hossain but if Shakib remains fit, he is unlikely to get a game.
Overall, Bangladesh seem to have a well-oiled bowling attack, which ideally suits the condition of UAE.
If we look at the past three editions of Asia Cup, Bangladesh had managed to reach the final twice. On both occasions, they were narrowly missed out on achieving glory. Hence, this time the aim is to go all the way, but by taking one step at a time. At least, that is what Shakib had to say on the sidelines of Bangladesh's first practice session in Dubai on Monday.
"We are confident enough we had a very good series against West Indies, especially in ODIs and T20s so we will take that confidence into the Asia Cup. Both the teams (Afghanistan and Sri Lanka) have been playing good cricket especially in 50 overs, so we have to play our best to go into the next round," the Bangladesh vice-captain said.
"We want to take it one game at a time, but obviously, the ultimate goal is to win the trophy. This is what everyone is here for. To get that success, we need to get the process right so we will be looking more into our process rather than on the trophy," the southpaw further added.
Following their dream run at home after an impressive campaign in the last World Cup, Bangladesh have made a reputation of being a competitive limited-overs' team. But in the past one year, the controversy surrounding the cold relations between some of the senior players with the ex-head-coach Chandika Hathurusingha has had a significant impact in their on-field performance.
Well, now under new coach Steve Rhodes and support staff, the time has come for the Tigers to buckle up. With less than a year left for the 2019 World Cup, the Asia Cup can be an ideal platform for a dress-rehearsal for next year's mega event.
Bangladesh will play the tournament opener against Sri Lanka on 15 September before taking on Afghanistan on 20 September in Abu Dhabi.
Bangladesh squad: Mashrafe Mortaza (C), Shakib Al Hasan (VC), Mushfiqur Rahim (WK), Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Mithun, Liton Das, Ariful Haque, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Nazmul Hossain, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Nazmul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Hider, Mominul Haque.