The 14th edition of the Asia Cup is fast approaching with the tournament slated to be held in the UAE for the third time in its history.
Six of the best teams from the continent will battle it out for the crown of Asia’s best across two venues.
Bangladesh, who are yet to lay their hands on the title, have been placed in a tough Group B alongside Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Here, we take a closer look at the Tigers as they prepare to leave their mark in the UAE.
COACH – STEVE RHODES
Former England wicketkeeper Steve Rhodes took charge as the head coach of the team in June this year following an extensive search by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB). The 54-year-old has vast coaching experience in country cricket where he served as the director of cricket for Worcestershire from 2006 to 2017.
His Bangladesh tenure got off to a dismal start with a Test series defeat in their tour of the Caribbean but the team then bounced back to clinch the subsequent ODI and T20I series.
CAPTAIN – MASHRAFE MORTAZA
The veteran pacer has been leading the ODI team for some time now and he brings with him a bagful of experience. Having burst onto the international stage as a genuine pacer in 2001, the 34-year-old has transformed himself constantly in the wake of recurring injuries, especially to his knee.
Now, he is a wily medium-pace bowler who can pick up wickets up front while keeping things tight at the death. With 32 wins in 58 ODI matches, Mortaza is the most successful limited-overs skipper in Bangladesh’s history and he will be hoping to lead the side to their maiden Asian crown as he approaches the twilight of his career.
STAR MAN – SHAKIB AL HASAN
Quite a lot has changed for Bangladesh cricket over the last few years but that Shakib Al Hasan remains their star man has not. Currently the No1 ranked all-rounder in ODI cricket, Shakib has been recently reinstated as the vice captain of the squad.
With over 5,000 ODI runs and 237 wickets, there aren’t many better than the Bangladesh all-rounder and if he can find some form, the Tigers are bound to go far in the tournament. Arguably the greatest player produced by his country, Shakib has been carrying the hopes of the Bangladesh team for over a decade now and he will be required to do it once again in the UAE. The all-rounder has deferred a possible finger surgery to make himself available for the tournament.
ONE TO WATCH – MEHIDY HASAN
The 20-year-old batting all-rounder could be a game-changer in the tournament for Bangladesh if he can find his bowling radar. A handy lower-order batsman who can land the big blows, Hasan can also turn the screws with ball in hand. He barely gives anything away with his tight off-spin which is shown by his career economy-rate of 4.77.
He was the undisputed star of Bangladesh U19’s march to the semi-final of the World Cup in 2016 and has already been earmarked as a potential superstar for the country.
STRENGTHS – MIDDLE ORDER
With Shakib, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmadullah in tow, Bangladesh’s middle-order is one of the strongest in the tournament. If the likes of Tamim Iqbal and Liton Das can lay a solid platform at the top of the innings, then these three batsmen are more than capable of driving home the advantage in the death overs.
WEAKNESSES – TOP ORDER
With Tamim Iqbal nursing a finger injury and Nazmul Hussain yet to be capped at the ODI level, Bangladesh could have troubles at the top of the innings. They have added batsman Mominul Haque as a backup to the two openers who are both dealing with injuries. A lot of the responsibility in the top-order will fall on the shoulders of Liton Das who has played only 12 ODIs to date.
Mashrafe Bin Mortaza (c), Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Mithun, Liton Kumar Das, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Ariful Haque, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain Saikat, Nazmul Hossain Shanto, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Nazmul Islam Apu, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Haider Rony, Mominul Haque.
GROUP STAGE MATCH 1
September 15: Bangladesh v Sri Lanka
Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai.
Time: 14:00 GST
GROUP STAGE MATCH 2
September 20: Bangladesh v Afghanistan
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Time: 14:00 GST
Anderson overtook Australia great McGrath when he took the final wicket of the fifth Test to secure a 118-run and 4-1 series victory for England.
The 36-year-old is up to fourth in the global list with 564 Test victims, with only spinners Muttiah Muralitharan (800), Shane Warne (708) and Anil Kumble (619) above him.
England team-mate Stuart Broad, 32, is Anderson’s nearest active challenger with 433, while injury-hit South Africa quick Dale Steyn, 35, has taken 421 Test wickets.
“If there is anyone out there, they have got a long way to go,” McGrath told BBC Radio 5 live. “I don’t think we’ll see it happen in the next decade.
“Just to play enough games to get anywhere near it is tough in itself. Other than Jimmy (143), no other fast bowler in the history of the game has played more than 132 Tests.
“Also, the nature of cricket these days is that there is so much more Twenty20.
“The game is quicker, it’s faster. And will bowlers play enough Test cricket in the future to get anywhere near the mark?”
Anderson shows no sign of letting up and has another milestone within his sights.
“If he can raise the bar to 600 wickets, that’s an incredible effort,” said McGrath, who took the record from Courtney Walsh in 2005.
“I was proud to hold it for as long as I did – for it to be beaten by somebody like Jimmy Anderson is great.
“I have a lot of respect for Jimmy. He’s been an incredible bowler for a long time.
“To think that Jimmy’s played for so long and continued at the top of his game shows his work ethic, his physical and mental strength and everything else that goes into it.
“When it comes to the art of swing bowling, there is no-one better.”
The series between the two heavyweights more than lived up to its billing in a roller-coaster ride that saw the pendulum swing from one team to the other with almost each passing session.
With a magnificent English summer now coming to a close, we look at the biggest surprises from the series – both good and bad.
SAM CURRAN’S EMERGENCE AS A GENUINE ALL-ROUNDER
When Sam Curran was named in the England squad for the series, not many were convinced by the youngster’s inclusion given his pedestrian display in his Test debut against Pakistan.
Four Tests later, those doubts have been completely erased with Curran emerging as a long-term all-rounder prospect for England. He changed the complexion of the first Test with a superb 63 with the bat in the first innings while also chipping in with a five-wicket match haul. That was not the only excellent rearguard action performed by the 20-year-old with similar performances following at Lord’s and Southampton.
His left-arm pace provides England with genuine variety in their bowling attack and his handy lower-order batting was a perennial thorn in the flesh for the visitors.
ISHANT SHARMA’S TRANSFORMATION INTO A STRIKE BOWLER
While India have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about their pace attack despite their defeat, no bowler’s performance was as heartening as that of Ishant Sharma. For so long the lanky pacer has held the tag of an ‘unlucky’ bowler who could bowl outstandingly all day without picking up a wicket.
That factor has seen the 30-year-old relegated to the role of the third seamer who can hold one end down with some tight bowling while the strike bowlers profit from the pressure created at the other end.
However, the England tour has seen the emergence of a new Ishant who is more than capable of leading the pace attack. The Delhi-born fast bowler ended as the second highest wicket-taker in the series behind James Anderson with 18 scalps to his name at an average of less than 25 and a strike-rate of just over 50.
JOS BUTTLER’S TEST RESURGENCE CONTINUES
If someone had said that Jos Buttler would end up as England’s highest run-scorer before the start of the series, in all probability they would have been laughed off.
The 28-year-old was recalled to the Test squad for the series against Pakistan on the back of a stupendous IPL campaign with Rajasthan Royals. While two half-centuries ensued in the two Tests against Pakistan, doubts still remained over the long-term suitability of Buttler in the Test squad.
With his 349 runs in the five Tests against India, Buttler has shown that his Pakistan display was no flash in the pan and a maiden Test ton at Nottingham was just reward for his tenacious and counter-attacking approach while batting at number six in the England batting order.
RAVI ASHWIN IS OUTBOWLED BY MOEEN ALI
Ravichandran Ashwin’s prolific wicket-taking form in Indian subcontinent conditions had been key to the team’s rise to the top of the Test standings. However, question marks over the off-spinner’s overseas Test credentials have remained and his latest performance will do little to make such doubts go away.
Ashwin actually started the series on fire by running rings around Alastair Cook at Edgbaston. A seven-wicket haul in the first Test indicated that Ashwin might be about to set the record straight for good but what followed was a lean patch which hurt India greatly.
He went wicketless at Lord’s under seaming conditions before picking up an injury and just the one wicket in the third Test. He was surprisingly persisted with in the fourth Test despite his injury troubles and was embarrassingly outbowled by Moeen Ali. No disrespect to Moeen, who is a fine spinner, but picking up just three wickets on a pitch where his England counterpart decimated India with a nine-wicket haul shows that Ashwin is not the force India need him to be in overseas tours.
ROOKIES HUNG OUT TO DRY
While Curran’s emergence was a big win for youth in the series, the vilification of Kuldeep Yadav and Ollie Pope should serve as a cautionary tale for youngsters. Pope was called up to the England squad after a breakout season with Surrey but scores of 28, 10 and 16 saw the 20-year-old dropped after just two Tests. Made to bat at an unfamiliar position of number four in the batting order, the youngster looked solid with his technique but showed the vulnerabilities of youth with some of his dismissals.
On the other hand, Kuldeep was instated in the India playing XI at Lord’s as the side’s second spinner but a wicketless display on a pitch tailor-made for pacers saw the youngster promptly dropped and sent back to India.
In both instances, two rookies were made the scapegoats of the respective team’s larger failings in general and the harsh treatment meted out to them shows how cruel international cricket can be towards youngsters.