Asia Cup 2018: Injury-hit Sri Lanka take on Bangladesh in opener
Sri Lanka will look to cope up with their mini injury crisis and start their campaign on the right note when they take on Bangladesh in the Asia Cup 2018 opener, on Saturday.
The Islanders are struggling with injuries as Danushka Gunathilaka has returned home even before the start of the tournament with a lower back problem, and has been replaced by Shehan Jayasuriya, the off-spinning all-rounder.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-Jayasuriya swap, came the news that Dinesh Chandimal is out with a finger injury – Niroshan Dickwella, the wicket-keeper batsman, has since replaced him.
Things aren’t looking so bright for Bangladesh too as talismanic all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan needs a surgery on his left little 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.
One will hope that the two teams put their injury concerns behind then as there is a fair bit of excitement around Dubai – and Abu Dhabi, the other venue for the tournament . And they should expect a great contest to start off with. Bangladesh come into the tournament on the back of a 2-1 series win over the Windies in the Caribbean, while Sri Lanka’s lost their last assignment, a five-match home series against South Africa, but have some momentum after having won the last two games of that series and then the one-off Twenty20 International.
If recent bilateral history is anything to go by, the team currently coached by Chandika Hathurusingha beat the team formerly coached by the same man twice in a row to win the triangular series in Dhaka – with Zimbabwe as the third team – in January. However, the Bangladesh boys had 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, Iqbal, 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.
Angelo Mathews has tremendous experience and class, qualities that aren’t lacking in the core of Upul Tharanga, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Suranga Lakmal or the returning Lasith Malinga either.
The return of Malinga, indeed, has been one of the stories in the lead-up to the event, with 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 with a big bag of tricks, could well be the frontman of the bowling attack on the slowish tracks.
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.
Bangladesh: 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
Sri Lanka: 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
(With ICC Inputs)