Asia Cup 2023 – Shakib Al Hasan, Chandika Hathurusinghe downplay rivalries with SL, Afghanistan

Asia Cup 2023 - Shakib Al Hasan, Chandika Hathurusinghe downplay rivalries with SL, Afghanistan

Recently, Afghanistan beat Bangladesh 2-1 in a three-match ODI series in Chattogram before the home side hit back by winning the T20I series 2-0. Bangladesh won their last bilateral ODI series against Sri Lanka, although Sri Lanka, the co-hosts of the Asia Cup, dominate the head-to-head record 40-9. The two sides will meet on August 31 in Pallekele before Bangladesh face Afghanistan in Lahore on September 3.

Shakib, though, said that the rivalry between Bangladesh and these two teams is more for fans, as the players have grown to know each other through international encounters and franchise leagues and don’t take it as seriously.

“I don’t like the word ‘rivalry’,” Shakib said. “We have been competitive against both these teams recently. They try their hardest to win; we also give it our all. These things are good for the fans. It is good for the game. We also want it to be this way. We want to win at the end of the day. Since we all know each other, there’s not much rivalry within the players.”

Bangladesh’s head coach Hathurusinghe echoed Shakib’s thoughts. “I’m not aware of the rivalry, but then, lately, those two teams played really good games against each other, especially in the previous Asia Cups,” he said. “So I think both teams give us a good challenge.

“At the same time, I think we had some success against them in the recent past. So we don’t take the rivalry into account, but our strategy against both teams is [focused on] how we can get an advantage.”

Bangladesh’s big question in this Asia Cup would be whether they will play with five or six bowlers. One extra bowler will mean they end up with a longer tail, although Hathurusinghe said that the bowlers have worked hard on their batting recently.

“Not by chance, but by condition, we might play that kind of combination [six bowlers]. We keep that in mind. The bowlers trained on their batting a lot in probably the last two months, three months with our skill coaches.

“Taskin [Ahmed] improved a lot [as a batter]. He has given us evidence as well against England. He closed the game out. At the same time, if you remember, Shoriful [Islam] showed against Ireland and the Afghanistan game what he could do, and got us over the line. Other batsmen also work hard. To name a few, Hasan Mahmud has come a long way and Fizz [Mustafizur Rahman], in his own way, is hitting big, big, big shots.”

Shakib, however, is aware that Ebadot Hossain’s absence – Ebadot couldn’t recover from the knee injury he sustained against Afghanistan in July – will be a blow to his side. “We have had a good preparation but it is unfortunate that Ebadot isn’t in the side,” he said. “He was quite an important member of the team. It is a setback.

“I still, however, believe that we can reach far with this team. We have to qualify first. We want to take it one match at a time. We aren’t thinking too far ahead. We will try to get a good result, and win every game.”

“The team and I are quite confident about Tanzid’s ability,” Shakib said. “It doesn’t mean that he won’t be a good player if he doesn’t do well in two or four matches. The opposite is also true. There’s a lot of time in hand.

“I want him to enjoy the game and the environment around the team. We will try to make him feel as comfortable as possible. If he feels that way, he can give something good for Bangladesh.”

Tanzid and Tanzim Hasan Sakib, the right-arm fast bowler who replaced Ebadot, make it eight cricketers from Bangladesh’s Under-19 World Cup-winning side from 2020 to have received call-ups to the senior team across formats. Shakib said that it was good to have them in the squad as they bring their World Cup-winning mentality to the dressing room.

“They have won the World Cup once, so they have the winning mentality. They can inspire our team to do something major, too. They want to win, so this is something vital for a team. I am hopeful that they bring this mentality to the team, which will help us build the dressing room environment as a result.”

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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