Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will kick off the latest edition of the Asia Cup starting Saturday. There is an exciting contest on the cards but to start with, both sides are dealing with injuries ahead of the game in Dubai.
For Bangladesh, star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan needs a surgery on his left finger but has pushed it back till after the Asia Cup; Tamim Iqbal, the senior opener, has a swollen right ring finger; Nazmul Hossain, the off-spinner, also has an injury in his bowling hand.
For Sri Lanka, Danushka Gunathilaka has returned home even before the start of the tournament with a lower back problem, and has been replaced by Shehan Jayasuriya, the off-spinning all-rounder. Before the Gunathilaka injury, Dinesh Chandimal had been ruled out of Asia Cup and Niroshan Dickwella, the wicket-keeper batsman, has since replaced him.
The fans pouring in at Dubai stadium should expect a grueling contest between these two sides. Bangladesh are coming into the tournament on the back of a 2-1 series win over the West Indies in the Caribbean, while Sri Lanka didn’t have quite a good time in their recent series against South Africa in a five-match home series. Although, they gained some momentum after having won the last two games of that series and then the one-off Twenty20 International.
Danushka Gunathilaka has returned home with back injury ©AFP
The team currently coached by Chandika Hathurusingha beat the team formerly coached by the same man (Hathurusingha) twice in a row to win the triangular series in Dhaka – with Zimbabwe as the third team – in January. Bangladesh took their revenge in the Nidahas Trophy against the hosts, and come into this tournament as the higher-ranked of the two teams.
Bangladesh have a full-strength side to pick from, fitness permitting, with the mainstays Shakib, Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mustafizur Rahman all there. With Chandimal out, Sri Lanka can’t quite make the same claim, but their squad looks strong on papers too.
On the other hand, for Sri Lanka, someone like Angelo Mathews has tremendous experience and class backed up with the likes of Upul Tharanga, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Suranga Lakmal or the returning Lasith Malinga.
Malinga’s return is a bit surprising given the paceman not having played any International cricket since September last year. But despite the presence of Lakmal and Malinga, Akila Dananjaya, the off-spinner, who posed problems to Indian batting with a big bag of tricks, could well be the forefront of the bowling attack on the low, slow tracks of UAE.
With Afghanistan the third team in the group, both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will try to make a good start to the tournament and make sure they don’t fall behind in the race for the Super Four – for that, they need a big performance up front.
One of the best Bangladesh’s best, Tamim comes into the Asia Cup in sensational form, having hit two centuries in the three matches in the Caribbean. The centuries came in winning cause as well with scores of 130* and 103, both innings of maturity and responsibility. If in the groove, he can take the game away from Sri Lanka early on. Sri Lanka have to get rid of him early on otherwise there could be danger for them.
If Malinga makes the XI, Malinga will definitely corner a fair bit of the viewers’ attention. His appearances for Sri Lanka have been irregular in recent times, and he isn’t the same force as he once used to be with his dipping yorkers backed up with mixed bag of slower deliveries. But he is still a force to reckon with, and will want to put in a big effort as the preparations for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 gather steam
Mashrafe Mortaza (c), Shakib Al Hasan, Liton Das, Ariful Haque, Mominul Haque, Abu Hider, Rubel Hossain, Tamim Iqbal, Nazmul Islam, Mahmudullah, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Mohammad Mithun, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mustafizur Rahman, Mosaddek Hossain Saikat, Nazmul Hossain
Angelo Mathews (c), Amila Aponso, Dushmantha Chameera, Akila Dananjaya, Niroshan Dickwella, Shehan Jayasuriya, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Kusal Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Kasun Rajitha, Dasun Shanaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Upul Tharanga