DHAKA: Bangladesh, pitted against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in the group stage of the Asia Cup 2018, must try to get off to a winning start, stressed Mashrafe Mortaza, their captain.
The Asia Cup, to be played in Dubai and Abu Dhabi from September 15 to 28, has Bangladesh starting out on the opening day against Sri Lanka in Dubai.
"I think every team is a threat for us," Mortaza, the talismanic 34-year-old all-rounder, said on Thursday after the team's preparatory camp in Dhaka.
"If you look at the bowling strength of Afghanistan and all-round potency of the Sri Lankans, anything can happen. So, for us, the opening game is the most important. If we can do well in the opening game we have a chance to progress further in the tournament," he said.
With just three teams in each group, the other one features India, Pakistan and Hong Kong, who qualified for the main event after beating the United Arab Emirates there is very little margin for error, and if Shakib Al Hasan, their premier all-rounder, is not fit for the competition, it might hamper Bangladesh's plans, an ICC report on Friday said.
It could get tricky for Bangladesh if they don't get the better of Sri Lanka, because their next game is against Afghanistan, who trumped them 3-0 in a Twenty20 International series in India's Dehradun in June this year.
The format is not the same, but the threat Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan's star spinners, bring to the table is known.
"If we can win the opening match we are sure it will help us to handle Rashid and Mujeeb much better," said Mortaza of the game in Abu Dhabi on September 20.
"But if don't do well in the opening game, it will be even twice as difficult to beat them. The first game will set the tone for us," he said.
Steve Rhodes, the Bangladesh head coach, pointed out that Bangladesh had brought wrist-spinners to the nets during the camp in a bit to get battle-ready.
"I don't think there's a fear factor," Rhodes said.
"We brought Likhon (Jubair Hossain) and Tanbir (Hayder) in the nets. Rishad (Hossain) is in the Under-19s. We tried to include some leg-spinners so that our batsmen get some practice."
That said, Rhodes admitted, Bangladesh should be extra cautious against Afghanistan.
"I think we should respect Afghanistan. Some quality cricketers play for Afghanistan. They will be respectful of our cricketers too, even though they beat us in the T20s. It will be a really good contest," he said.
"Afghanistan are a tough team. The T20 is their better format. We are not going to take that game lightly at all. We have to be on top of our game against them and Sri Lanka."
Bangladesh go into the Asia Cup on the back of a 2-1 one-day international series win in the Caribbean, which must serve as a morale booster.
"We are going there full of confidence. We are ranked higher than the West Indies but those were still tough games. Winning there gave the team a lot of confidence," agreed Rhodes.