'The first hour is vital for us'
Bangladesh's ODI series against Afghanistan that gets underway today may have taken on the feel of a sideshow, considering that it was finalised only this month, and it is hard to escape the feeling that this is an appetiser ahead of the main course -- the Test and ODI series against England next month.
Bangladesh head coach Chandika Hathurusingha however, sees it as a separate series, one in which Bangladesh will have to rediscover their footing in ODI cricket after an 11-month gap.
"The main focus is to win three ODIs against another national team. As you said, not playing for a long time is a bit of an Achilles Heel for us," said the Sri Lankan in the pre-match press conference in Mirpur yesterday. "That is what we are trying to get over, that uncertainty. The first match is very vital for us. The first hour is vital for us. It is important that we start well, so the focus is all on winning the first game.
"We have no concerns over any skill part -- batting, bowling or fielding. It is all about the mental side of the game -- getting into the game, playing in front of a crowd for your country. We played so many practice matches with the top 25 players in the country. You cannot create that atmosphere."
The lead-up to the series has seen a bit of controversy with a regular member in pacer Al-Amin Hossain being dropped from the first two ODIs with the injury-prone Shafiul Islam replacing him. "Just because Al-Amin is not here does not mean he is finished. If we were playing a different team it would have been a different scenario," the coach insisted. "He has done well in the past, and when Shafiul is fit, he is as good as anyone as well. We are giving Shafiul two games to see what he can do."
Fans will also be looking forward to seeing how the latest addition to the Bangladesh team, young batsman Mosaddek Hossain, fares if he makes his debut today. "He is in on merit. He played very well in first-class and the Dhaka Premier League and we played four to five practice matches where we saw him and yesterday he obviously put his hand up [in the warm-up where he scored 76 for BCB XI]."