Hurting Tigers face smarting Aussies today
After a one-day washout followed by a Test snub, the Tigers will finally have their first sight of the mighty Australia in the glamorous ICC flagship event at a neutral venue today.
The first game for Bangladesh against the Aussies after almost two years will commence in Bangalore's M Chinnaswamy Stadium at 8pm BST.
Bangladesh's new avatar as a limited-overs force to reckon with, which began in earnest during the World Cup down under in 2015, is yet to be tested by the strength of Australia. Their World Cup match against Australia was washed out, before Steven Smith's team cancelled a tour to Bangladesh late last year due to security fears.
But the Tigers could not have asked for a worse time for their vital ICC World T20 fixture against an equally uncomfortable Australia -- a game Bangladesh will have to play without two of their performing bowlers after pacer Taskin Ahmed and left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny were suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Saturday when their bowling actions were deemed illegal.
And the desperation was quite evident when Tigers skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza at a pre-match briefing said: “Even if he [Mustafizur Rahman] is 20 per cent fit he will have to play, we don't have any choice.”
So, the game will mark the debut of Bangladesh's pace sensation Mustafizur on the world stage, which was delayed due to a side strain the 20-year-old suffered during the Asia Cup.
But Bangladesh, looking for their first win against Australia in the shortest version of the game after three defeats including the last one on home soil in 2014, are more focused on rearranging their playing 11 as well as their strategy after that devastating blow on Saturday.
Taskin's suspension has already created an uproar at home and it will definitely have a toll on a team that has been playing so well as a unit for the last one and a half years, during which the strapping fast bowler emerged as a vital cog in an impressive pace bowling engine.
Although bowling is not supposed to be a serious issue on a Chinnaswamy wicket known as an absolute belter, Mashrafe believed that the suspension not only disturbed their game plan also hurt the team mentally.
“This is a kind of wicket that produces a lot of runs. So, yes we expect our batsman to score runs here. But we will have to pull our act together without our two key bowlers,” said the Bangladesh captain, adding that their coach Chandika Hathusingha's Australian experience would be handy for them.
Bangladesh's Sri Lankan coach has experience of coaching Australian players, having served as coach for New South Wales and Australian Big Bash League team Sydney Thunder between 2012 and 2014.
“But whatever he teaches us, it's our job to execute that in the middle. We know Australia is one of the best sides,' Mashrafe added.
Asked what he expects from his wounded team, he said: “I'm banking on each and every player. In a T20 game those contributions are very important to win a game.”
Mashrafe's Australian counterpart Smith is however facing a different problem going into the game and according to him his team needs to solve the problem of not scoring in the middle overs. Australia, a dominant force in Test and ODIs, have surprisingly not won any T20 silverware. Their defeat against New Zealand at Dharamsala have put them in a dicey situation like Bangladesh, who suffered a massive 55-run defeat against Pakistan at the Eden Gardens on March 16.
Smith however refused to accept the notion of his former New South Wales coach Hathurusingha, who the other day said that this Australian team is not sure about its playing 11 which could be an advantage for Bangladesh.
“We are pretty sure about our combination. We have lost against New Zealand which is pretty disappointing. But conditions here are different. We have respect for Bangladesh, a team that has been improving for the last one year or so. We are ready to go,” Smith told reporters at the pre-match briefing.
It is very likely that Aaron Finch, who sat out the opening game against the Kiwis, will open the innings with David Warner, pushing Usman Khawaja to the sidelines. Finch blasted 71 and Warner hit 48 in their last game against Bangladesh in the group stages of the 2014 WT20 in Bangladesh, a match the Australians won with two and a half overs to spare, chasing 159.
Incidentally, it was also a game where Taskin made his debut and bowled beautifully at Bangladesh's home of cricket in Mirpur.