Kolkata: Celebrated all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan's absence from the T20 series against India could be a "blessing in disguise" for Bangladesh and a great opportunity for the young cricketers to turn stars overnight, said former T20I captain Shahriar Nafees.
Bangladesh suffered a big blow on the eve of their departure to India when ICC handed a two-year ban on their Test and T20I captain Shakib for failing to report three suspect approaches.
Without Shakib, the world no 1 ODI all-rounder, and senior batsman Tamim Iqbal, who had skipped the tour for personal reasons, Bangladesh will lack the experience of as many as 151 T20Is when they begin the three-match series in Delhi on Sunday.
"There could not have been any bigger opportunity for the young Bangladeshi players to prove themselves against such a big team like India," Shahriar, who played 24 Tests, 75 ODIs and one T20I, told PTI in an exclusive interview.
"The whole world sits up and watches when India play. It's massive for the youngsters to become stars for Bangladesh."
Shakib's deputy Mahmudullah, who is known for his calm demeanour and finishing ability, was made the captain for the three T20Is.
Mahmudullah hasn't made it to the IPL yet, but he has been part of the Caribbean Premiere League, having represented Jamaica Tallawahs and St Kitts & Nevis Patriots and has been their most improved T20 player.
And with the lucrative IPL auction slated for next month, it's a massive opportunity for Bangladeshi future stars, including Mahmudullah, who has led the country 11 times before.
"He's an established player. Hope he will fill up the void left by Shakib," he said of Mahmudullah, who has led Chittagong Vikings and Barisal Bulls to the finals of Bangladesh Premier League in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
"It can be a blessing in disguise for the whole team. It's for them to make it count ahead of the IPL and Twenty20 World Cup in a year's time."
"Massive opportunity for the boys. Every team has already started preparing for the T20 World Cup. For Bangladesh, the countdown begins tomorrow," the 34-year-old former opener said.
Record is also heavily staked against them as Bangladesh are yet to win against India in T20Is in eight encounters.
But Shahriar feels Bangladesh-India rivalry in the recent past has reached a high, similar to a Indo-Pak showdown.
"If you see in the last three-four years a positive and healthy rivalry is brewing between Bangladesh and India, which brings back the memories of Indo-Pak rivalry. In that sense Bangladesh will fight hard and strive hard to win their first T20 match against India," he said.
"No doubt, it will be very tough for Bangladesh without the trio of Shakib, Tamim and (fast bowling allrounder) Mohammed Saifuddin (injured). But in the T20 format, if you can seize the crucial opportunities, nothing is ruled out. If the whole team rise and play to their potential, nothing is ruled out."
The T20I series is followed by two Tests where they will launch their World Test Championship campaign under new captain Mominul Haque.
"For the 10-odd days, Bangladesh cricket is going through a turmoil. It's time to move on. The biggest positive that we have come here to play against all the hardships. We have to stay positive," he said referring to the players strike ahead of the series.
"India are one of the top countries in Test cricket and we could not have asked for a better start. It would be far more tougher series than the T20Is. I'm sure we will put up a stronger challenge than South Africa," he said.
In a historic first, both teams will also play their first Test under lights at Eden Gardens from November 22-26.
"We all are looking forward to it and I'm sure it will further strengthen the bond between the two countries," he concluded.
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