Can Tigers overcome overwhelming odds?
Bangladesh appear to be the fifth-best among the top five teams heading into the Asia Cup tournament. The Tigers are without a leg-spinner in the side, one of the key weapons for any side in the modern game. What kind of matchups would they face to shape their fate in a tournament with Asian Powerhouses India and Pakistan?
Bangladesh's first assignment, however, would be to progress out of the three-team Group B which includes Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. If the Tigers are to get through, they have to counter two leggies in Rashid Khan and Wanindu Hasaranga in the group matches.
The last time the Tigers played Hasaranga, they picked him off for runs and it led to them scoring 171, although they lost the game by five wickets. However, their frailties in leg-spin were exposed again by Adam Zampa, who bagged a fifer in Bangladesh's final Super 12 stage game.
Rashid was kept at bay with the Afghan leggie scalping just two wickets in the two-match T20I series at Mirpur. However, the Tigers will have to target some of the other bowlers while making sure they show more application against Rashid in the upcoming match on August 30th.
Further down the tournament, the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal and Shadab Khan would also pose challenges. However, in the context of Bangladesh batting, there lie deeper issues.
The Tigers' batting line-up faced turbulence due to injuries during the tour of Zimbabwe as they now have only two openers in the squad. Team manager Khaled Mahmud had said the batting order position did not matter while it appeared.
Bangladesh are set to bank on a mix of youth and experience. Afif Hossain will certainly be played higher up the order at number four while experienced batters such as Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, might have to open the innings. The instability will either propel them towards more top-order collapses or perhaps lead the senior stars into stepping beyond their comfort zones and putting their skill sets to use in more critical match scenarios. If the problems at the top have been slow run-rate and losing too many wickets in the Powerplay, the top-order must have clarity of purpose in terms of aggression.
The Tigers' failure to often fathom their individual roles during crucial match scenarios had proven to be disastrous in the past. Team manager Mahmud had also enforced focusing on the roles and having clarity going forward. The Asia Cup would be an appropriate place to test their strengths.
Afghanistan has a good blend of left-hand and right-hand batters in the top-order, making Bangladesh bowlers' task all the more difficult. Depending on the wicket's conduciveness to spin, the Tigers would have to hope their spinners Shakib, Nasum Ahmed and Mahedi Hasan fare better than Rashid or Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who both have vital playing experiences from playing franchise leagues around the world.
Pakistan's attacking mindset with the ball have proven difficult for the Tigers in the shortest format, while in Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman they have batters to create real damage. The Tigers' hope will also lie in the pace attack of Mustafizur Rahman, Hasan Mahmud, Taskin Ahmed and Ebadot Hossain. With the Australia World Cup in mind, it would be a good opportunity to test their mettle against some of the world's best.
India arrive into the tournament as the strongest side but there is a perception that the top-order is susceptible to left-arm pacers swinging the ball. If Mustafizur can work his magic, the Tigers would like a bit of their chances in that matchup. Despite all that, with the Tigers unable to yet find their feet in the T20I format, they come across as the weaker opponent in most of the matchups which leave things up to luck and a bit of inspiration.