After missing the last three games due to suspension premier Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan will be back to serve the Tigers in a crunch Asia Cup match against Pakistan at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium today. Photo: Firoz Ahmed
When everything goes wrong, one can only hope for better days. Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim embodied that sentiment ahead of today's clash against an enervated Pakistan in the Asia Cup at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. The return of all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan after a three-match suspension has raised hopes no doubt.
The defeat against Afghanistan shattered the morale of the Tigers completely and that disaster came after they had squandered chances one after another in recent times, so only success can bring them back on the right track now.
As the Bangladesh captain said, they need more than hundred per cent effort and need to play as a unit on the field to arrest the slide against a team with a versatile bowling attack and one fresh from a spirited victory against archrivals India. Pakistan's middle-order might be struggling but the Bangladesh bowling is yet to find its feet.
Bangladesh have only one sweet memory of playing against Pakistan -- the famous win in the 1999 World Cup at Northampton -- in the 31 matches since they commenced ODI hostilities in 1986. Although there were no other wins, there have been other instances from which to draw inspiration.
“We have two more opportunities to play well. We need to play well in all three departments. The last two games (the two 2012 Asia Cup matches at the same venue including the narrow 2-run loss in the final) we played against Pakistan were close. We need one match for a turnaround. We can win these games. There are chances. We hope to finish on a good note,” said an under-pressure Tigers skipper who thought that he and head coach Shane Jurgensen must take the responsibility for the recent debacles, adding that the match is another opportunity to 'show that the last few games were just a bad phase'.
There might be a mathematical chance for the home side to play the final for the second successive time but Mushfiqur was not in the mood for any pipedreams; his only expectation was that his boys apply themselves properly to come out from the gloom of defeats. The little man must lead the team from the front not only with the bat but also by shedding his rigid style of captaincy -- he must be strong enough mentally and keep his emotions in check.
The board and team management have already singled out some players for their irresponsible attitude, so it will be an opportunity for those players and the team at large to prove themselves.
And everybody will also be looking to see how prolific all-rounder Shakib makes his return in a sordid phase for the team. His captain understandably breathed a sigh of relief as he got back his main weapon.
“Shakib is an important player, when he is in the team we will have an extra bowler and extra batsman. The pressure will be less on me as well. Last few years he has been our big player so it will be really good. His inclusion will change the whole team,” an excited Mushfiqur said when asked about the return of the all-rounder.
It was not so long ago when the Tigers' victory song of “we shall overcome” was heard from their dressing room, but they will have to overcome many difficulties on and off the field to sing the tune again. Refreshingly, the Bangladesh skipper believed that it would be possible to beat Pakistan after a gap of 15 years.