Mash's focus only on the first step | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 07, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:47 AM, September 07, 2018

Mash's focus only on the first step

ODI captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza knows the pitfalls into which Bangladeshi cricket teams often unwittingly stumble. He is also one who keeps expectations low before series, so it was no surprise that his feet were planted firmly on the ground when he talked about Bangladesh's chances in the Asia Cup in the pre-tournament press conference in Mirpur yesterday.

The pitfall is that the confidence of the team seems to disproportionately draw from their most recent performance in a series. Afghanistan and Sri Lanka are in Bangladesh's group, and there are bad memories of the former as Bangladesh succumbed to a 3-0 whitewash in a T20I series at the hands of the minnows when they last met, with leg-spinner Rashid Khan tormenting the Tigers' batsmen in Dehradun in May.

"Of course he [Rashid] is a world-class spinner, especially in these two formats. One positive is that in T20s you have to play more shots due to the pressure of scoring runs, but in one-dayers, maybe you will get two-three overs more," said Mashrafe, but Rashid was not his focus because Bangladesh's first match is not against Afghanistan.

"Before Rashid, I think that it is more important to handle Sri Lanka's pace bowling and spin variety. If we can win the first match, I am pretty sure the confidence we will gain will make it easier to handle Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman or Mohammad Nabi. If the Sri Lanka match is a bad one then it will be doubly difficult. That match will set many things for us."

There were also no forecasts of Bangladesh winning the tournament, despite the fact that they made the final in two of the last three editions, albeit all at home.

"Looking at the teams, I think that India are a far better team than the others. Pakistan are playing on their home ground, and so they will have a few advantages, including the presence of many wrist-spinners," Mashrafe said. "If you compare the teams, see the wicket, which players are in form -- I think there are better teams than us. But I don't think the gap is a big one; we can bridge it by playing good cricket and then anything is possible."

New coach Steve Rhodes, sitting beside the inspirational captain, was however not that cautious and that perhaps has to do with him not being there when a single bad performance seemed to let loose an avalanche of losses in 2014 and also in late 2017 and early 2018.

"I think it would be a wonderful achievement for us to win the Asia Cup. We are going there full of confidence," said Rhodes with a smile. "Winning there [in West Indies] gave the team a lot of confidence. We have two games to qualify. We shouldn't assume that we will get into the next group."

However, two months in the job seems to have given him an inkling of the importance of starting well.

"If we play well against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, then it will add to the confidence. Then if we are in the last stages of the tournament, why wouldn't you believe that you could win?"

But the mood of the presser was set by the captain. "I think the 15th [of September], in particular, will be important."

All eyes, understandably, are therefore on the opener eight days from today and the team will do well to tap into their captain's laser focus.   

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