A cautionary note
Bangladesh's unprecedented success in 2015 and their prolonged focus on T20 cricket has raised hopes of a special performance in the Asia Cup T20, which will kick off in earnest when Bangladesh take on India in Mirpur today. But the fans will do well to temper their hopes; the successes came in 50-over cricket but the Tigers are from the finished article in Twenty20s. Even if they were, the large role luck plays in deciding winners -- there have been five different winners in five editions of the World twenty20 and rarely have pre-tournament favourites won -- works against the form book.
Bangladesh's T20 record is woeful and their ODI renaissance since the 2012 Asia Cup has not found an echo in T20 cricket. Perhaps that is why Bangladesh have focused on T20 cricket ahead of the Asia Cup T20 and the World Twenty20 like no other Test-playing country has over the past three months. They have played just four actual matches in that period (the four-match series against Zimbabwe in January which yielded an underwhelming 2-2 draw), but that was followed by a trio of specialised, lengthy T20I training camps in Khulna, Chittagong and Dhaka.
To provide another dampener, dashing opener Tamim Iqbal will miss the tournament as he is on paternity leave. Considering that much of a team's success in T20s hinges on the start the openers provide, Tamim will be missed sorely. He also seems to have found a new T20 acumen, as evidenced by his success in the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
Making his absence an even bigger concern is the new and as yet untested opening combination. Soumya Sarkar has been a revelation in 2015 in ODIs, but his form has since seen a sharp slide. He has struggled in domestic cricket ever since the South Africa series last year. His form as a T20 opener in the Zimbabwe series did not inspire confidence -- his all-or-nothing style of either hitting the ball to the fence or missing it completely is more suited to a number five or six who has only two overs to bat. His partner is tipped to be Mohammad Mithun, who is as yet untested in the format; he faced just one ball in his two T20Is against Sri Lanka and West Indies. The third option is Imrul Kayes who, while having a stellar Bangladesh Premier League 2015, has not done much in this format at international level.
A look at their more experienced Asia Cup T20 opponents may be instructive. India open with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma with Virat Kohli at three -- their best limited-overs batsmen. The same goes for Pakistan's Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez. The excitement surrounding the Tigers notwithstanding, they do not have batsmen of that quality at numbers one and two. It may well be a throwback to a time when all hop rests on Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim in the middle order.
Even with the large role luck plays, recent records and quality of opposition suggests that the Tigers are not likely to have much joy today. If they do, an improvement has to come from the batting department, and one can hope that the effect the T20 camps had on Tamim is contagious.