It is certainly not the contest that will enthuse many. Sri Lanka start as overwhelming favourites against minnows Bangladesh in the inaugural match of the ICC Champions Trophy at Mohali on Saturday.
Even if Sri Lanka play well below form, Bangladesh would have a tough task to make a match of it. However, one can’t imagine Bangladesh giving up with out a fight or, on a very optimistic note, can’t even rule out the minnows springing a surprise over their fancied opponents.
“We know we are the lowest ranked team in the tournament and the others believe they can beat us. But that will not discourage us - rather, it will inspire us to fight hard and stage some upsets,” said Bangladesh coach Dav Whatmore.
Apart from this show of optimism and Whatmore’s brave words, the Bangladeshis have something more substantial from which they can draw selfbelief — they defeated the Lankans earlier this year at home to finally break a long sequence of defeats.
“The victory gave us a lot of self-belief… we believe that if we could put one over the Lankans then, we are good enough to win on Saturday as well,” said skipper Habibul Bashar.
But even after making allowance for the uncertainties inherent in ODI cricket and the self-belief Bangladesh talk of, there is no denying the fact that they face an uphill task.
Sri Lanka are coming into the tournament sky-high on confidence after demolishing England 5-0 in England, followed by the thrashing they handed the Netherlands.
The team is operating like a well-oiled machine under new skipper Mahela Jayawardene and almost every player looks in a good nick.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, have issues to resolve about form and injuries. They would be concerned about the inconsistency in the batting of the dashing Mohammed Ashraful and Aftab Ahmed. The two scripted the famous Bangla win over Australia last year but have been anything but consistent thereafter.
While Aftab showed signs of getting back his touch in the practice match here, Ashraful looked out of sorts during his brief stay on the wicket. Their lead bowlers, Mashrafe Mortaza and Syed Rasel, are coming back after injuries. Although, coach Whatmore maintained they are fine now, it remains to be seen if they are at their best.
Besides, the conditions and the wicket could further enlarge the gap between the two teams. The wicket, according to PCA curator Daljeet Singh, would not provide assistance to the spinners - and Bangladesh have a crowd of left-arm spinners. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, would unleash their battery of pace bowlers on the thickly-layered wicket.
All said and done, Bangladesh will have to come up with something spectacular if they want to stage an upset.