When Bangladesh take on Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup opener in Dubai today, they will deal with the familiar and the unfamiliar in a quest to progress to the second round of a tournament that has been structured in a brand new format.
The match will get underway from 3:30pm (5:30pm Bangladesh time) at the Dubai International Stadium.
Mashrafe Bin Mortaza's men will have to contend with extreme heat in a part of the world that rarely sees cricket in the high-heat months of August and September. On the other hand, they will be dealing with a familiar foe in Sri Lanka, against whom they have had many battles -- not to mention more than a little needle -- over the last two years.
In the sides' last meeting during the Nidahas Trophy in Colombo in March, Bangladesh won an ill-tempered T20I that featured captain Shakib Al Hasan calling players back when aggrieved at an umpiring decision and numerous players engaging in a war of words.
Six months later, both camps seem to be downplaying the budding rivalry and insist that the Nidahas Trophy incident is a thing of the past and will not have a bearing on today's match.
"When players represent their country the edge is there anyway -- there are no enemies," said Mashrafe when asked whether it is good to have a bit of needle before a match. "There are things that happen in the heat of the moment during the match, but those things don't last. It [rivalry] neither helps you to play better nor is it a reason to play badly.
"It's more important to implement our plans and start well -- if we can do well tomorrow it will give us confidence for the next match. The format is different this time as you have to get past two teams and play the three other teams in the next round, and there are matches hot on the heels of each other if you get to the second round, so it's important to start well."
Another familiar issue for Bangladesh is the phenomenon of the five seniors -- Mashrafe, Shakib, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad -- carrying the lion's share of the responsibility of the team doing well while the less experienced members, whom Mashrafe has recently been saying can no longer be called juniors, fail to pull their weight.
More than all other factors, it will likely be the performances of those outside the big five that will determine Bangladesh's fortunes today, and beyond. The premium will be on consistency as Bangladesh, the highest ranked side in their group, will ideally want to win both their matches against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to be sure of progression to the next round where all four teams -- two qualifiers each from the two groups -- will be in a race to the final on September 28.
However, any advantage of being ranked above their groupmates is offset by the alien nature of the conditions they are faced with.
Bangladesh last played in the uniquely tortuous heat of the UAE in 1995. In other words none of the players in this squad -- even those who participated here in the Pakistan Super League in February -- have the match feel of playing here in September.
Sri Lanka have played Pakistan here regularly, their last sojourn being a full tour in September-October 2017. Like Pakistan, the UAE is a second home for Afghanistan and they are well versed in the conditions here.
The toss will of course be a factor with the match beginning in the afternoon as the side fielding first will have the worst of the heat, which in turn will affect their batsmen for the chase.
The good news for Bangladesh seems to be that the recovery of the injured pair of Tamim and Shakib -- both managing finger injuries – seems to be progressing unhindered and Bangladesh are likely to field a full-strength squad for the game.
"They have played with injuries in the past. They have taken the decision that they will play, so there is no use discussing these things the day before, and there is no excuse now," said Mashrafe.