Asia Cup 2022 – SL vs Ban

Asia Cup 2022 - SL vs Ban

A day ahead of their must-win Asia Cup match against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh team director Khaled Mahmud has criticised his batters for their approach during the seven-wicket loss to Afghanistan. Having chosen to bat first, Bangladesh had struggled to 127 for 7, with their innings featuring just the one six.

“Mosaddek [Hossain] hit the only six of the [innings] although it was a lucky one as the fielder caught it and touched the rope. But I would never blame him for that shot,” Mahmud said. “He had the intent to hit a straight six. I want to see the others at least trying. That’s all I want to see.

“I don’t want to see them getting out after defending 15-20 balls. It is very hurtful. You can have 50 for 3 or 50 for 4, or 40 for no loss in the powerplay, but you can’t take pressure from both sides.”

Mahmud went as far as to question whether the batters’ lack of attacking intent stemmed from their playing to cement their spots in the side. He had made a similar claim after Bangladesh’s 2-1 defeat to Zimbabwe in the T20I series earlier this month.

“As long as you are playing for the team, everything will be in order,” he said. “If you fear for losing your place, you won’t be performing at the international level. You can be selfish in a Test match, nobody will say anything if you score a 300-ball century.

“But you can’t do that in this format. You have to play fearless cricket. It means you can’t be afraid of losing your spot in the team. You have to show the intent. If you don’t, you have no right to stay in the team.”

Mahmud said that the BCB was doing everything within its power to ensure the best training facilities for the batters, including flying in three legspinners – including Rishad Hossain, who has played for Bangladesh A, and one from Chennai – to help them simulate the experience of facing Rashid Khan. Despite this, he felt the batters hadn’t been able to lift their game.

“It is difficult to find out if there was actually fear within our batters about [Afghanistan’s] spinners,” Mahmud said. “We brought on couple of legspinners, one of whom played in the IPL. We also had Rishad [Hossain] in the nets. We tried to help the team as much as possible on behalf of the BCB. But there’s a difference between training and matches.

“It looks like we are unable to handle the pressure that comes in a match. The players have to find out ways to get out of this situation. To play well in T20s, we can’t really bat this way. Even against an ordinary bowling side, forget about Rashid and [Mohammad] Nabi. They have good technique but we have to improve the tactical part of our batting.”

Apart from his own batters, Mahmud also found another target to swipe at in Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka. After Sri Lanka had lost the opening game of the tournament to Afghanistan, Shanaka had compared Bangladesh’s bowlers unfavourably with those of Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan has a world-class bowling attack,” Shanaka had said. “We know Fizz [Mustafizur Rahman] is a good bowler. Shakib [al Hasan] is a world-class bowler. But apart from them, there is no world-class bowler in the side. So if we compare with Afghanistan, Bangladesh is an easier opponent.”

In the days following Shanaka’s comment, Sri Lanka’s assistant coach Naveed Nawaz disagreed with him, while Bangladesh offspinner Mehidy Hasan Miraz refused to get drawn into the war of words. Mahmud, however, is known to be a feisty character, and he didn’t shy away from expressing his opinion.

“I don’t know why Dasun made that comment,” he said. “Definitely Afghanistan has a better squad. He said we have only two bowlers in our line-up, but I don’t see any bowlers in Sri Lanka. At least Bangladesh has world-class bowlers like Mustafiz and Shakib. They don’t even have that.

“It is not about the words. It is about how you play the game.”

Mahmud suggested that both sides would have to handle pressure well to come out on top. Afghanistan have comfortably beaten both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, leaving the two more established Group B sides to fight for the one remaining Super 4s spot.

“Sri Lanka are also under pressure, not just us,” Mahmud said. “I am hoping we will have a better time in Dubai’s conditions. It will be a tense match tomorrow. The team that handles the pressure better will have more chance of winning. Whoever wins the mental battle, will win the game. Skill, tactics and technique will take a backseat tomorrow.”

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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