Team Tigers is poised to launch a very hectic international cricket schedule with three matches T20 series with rising Afghans in their adopted home at Dehradun of India.
Bangladesh will proceed to West Indies after the series and would enter a very busy schedule of international cricket. Afghanistan is placed at 8th in ICC T20 ranking above Bangladesh at 10. Given the current hot form of Afghan super star Rashid Khan and two more quality players Mohammad Nabi and Mujibur Rahman this may not be a cake walk for team Tigers.
This writer considering the over all balance of the two teams and long international experience of key players still considers Bangladesh as favorite. But talented Afghans have all the elements to surprise Bangladesh as well. Over all it promises a very entertaining and attractive series.
Meanwhile BCB and ACB have announced the teams. Bangladesh has to absorb a last minute reverse as their new ball prodigy Mustafizur Rahman is not viable through injury. The attack is already weakened through retirement of maestro Mashrafe from T20 international. We are unsure that absence of two key bowlers would keep Bangladesh as penetrative as usual.
Afghanistan, on the other hand, looks to be buzzing and oozing in confidence Teenager Rashid Khan continues rocking cricket world with mesmerizing leg spin and googly bowling and occasional power hitting. In Mujibur Rahman, Afghans have found another world class bowler. Not to speak of Mohammad Nabi a talented all rounder. With 12 of the 20 overs in the safe hands of three top quality bowlers any team would think twice playing Afghans in T20 on seemingly spin friendly Indian wickets.
Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah Riyad , Tamim Iqbal , Soumya Sarkar, Liton K Das, Mushfiqur Rahim, Sabbir Rahman , Mosaddeque Hossain, Mehedy Meraj, Ariful Haque , Nazmul Hossain , Rubel Hossain, Abul Hasan Raju , Abu Jayed Rahi and Abu Hider Rony
Afghanistan: Ajghar Stanakzai, Najeeb Takai, Usman Ghani, Mohammad Shehjad, Mujibur Rahman Zadran, Najibullah Zadran, Shamiullah Sinwari, Shafiqllah Sadak, Darbish Rasooli, Mohammad Nabi, Karim Zanat, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Shapur Zadran and Aftab Alam.
It is true that Afghans are above Bangladesh in ICC T20 ranking. But that does not mean that Afghanistan is much stronger than Bangladesh in any format. They are still struggling in finding their feet in world cricket. They played lot mote T20 international against different nations winning some. Unfortunately Bangladesh plays very little T20 international and did not win as many to elevate their standing in the ranking.
There has been lot of talks in social media how Tigers would manage Rashid Khan and Mujib? But four very experienced Bangladeshis Shakib, Tamim, Mushfique and Mahmudullah in between them are the most experienced players in international cricket. All are past masters of playing quality bowling in all conditions. Shakib has just completed playing IPL 2018 along side Rashid Khan. Often they bowled in tandem and definitely played him a lot in nets. Soumya, Sabbir, Lion, Mosaddek are also no mug against spin.
So there is no reason why Bangladesh must panic at Afghan bowling strength. On the other hand Bangladesh spin attack of Shakib, Miraj and Nazmul is no less potent. I would have liked an additional spinner replacing injured Mustafiz as it will be a battle of spin. Off Course Mahmudullah and Mosaddek can be used if necessary. Bangladesh should play Afghan Pacers Zadrans well. Scoring 170 plus for Bangladesh against Afghan attack should not be much of a problem.
Without Mashrafe, Taskin and Mustafiz Bangladesh pace attack looks a little thin. Rubel, Rahi and Rony/ Abul should enjoy the grassy bouncy condition. Afghanistan has Stanakzai, Shehjad and Nabi who can be compared with top Bangladeshi batsmen. Others must not worry much. Bangladesh should defend 170 against this Afghan team. Off course they have to bowl and field well.
Bangladesh bats deep till number 8. In T20 a team needs two to three batsmen striking form and two sizeable partnerships. I would go for the following playing XI in the first match:
Tamim, Liton, Shakib, Mushfique, Mahmudullah, Sabbir, Mosaddek, Mehedy, Rubel, Rony and Nazmul
Shakib has just completed a mixed IPL season. In this batting line up he must bat at three getting more deliveries for producing match winning innings. He promised in some Innings to delivering but ended short of good innings. If he can create momentum Mushfique, Mahmudullah, Sabbir and Mosaddek can carry on. Bangladesh must bat consistently well for putting up challenging total or chasing whatever Afghans post. But these would not be as easy as being said against quality Afghan attack.
BCB prefer playing T20 over ODI series. We would have rather liked Bangladesh playing ODI as preparation for ICC World Cup in 2019. Perhaps BCB eyed T20 World Cup 2020. A series win would improve Bangladesh standing in ranking. But there is no reason to become complacent at all. Afghans have all the quality of winning T20 matches and even surprising Bangladesh winning the series.
BDST: 1134 HRS, MAY 31, 2018