Afghanistan v Bangladesh, World Cup 2015, Group A, Canberra February 17, 2015

'Pressure is totally on Bangladesh' - Nabi

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"What does it mean that you have never beaten Afghanistan?" It was the first question Mashrafe Mortaza was asked in his pre-match press conference. Mashrafe clarified that the "never" included all of one ODI, in the Asia Cup last March. He also said that Bangladesh had had their "revenge" just two weeks later by demolishing Afghanistan at the World T20.

It is a strange situation for Bangladesh ahead of their World Cup opener against Afghanistan. They are the Full Members. They have been playing Test cricket since 2000 and ODI cricket since 1986. They are expected to win over a side that, as Afghanistan coach Andy Moles pointed out, was not even in the ICC when Bangladesh played in their first World Cup in 1999. But the only time Bangladesh have gone up against Afghanistan in the ODI format, they have lost. At home.

Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi's responses illustrated the duality of situation Bangladesh are in. He was asked if he really thought Afghanistan were a better team than Bangladesh, or if he had just been playing mind games when he had said before that his team could beat them again. "Pressure is not on Afghanistan. Pressure is totally on Bangladesh," Nabi replied almost immediately.

Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan were missing from the Bangladesh side that lost to Afghanistan in the Asia Cup in Fatullah, it was pointed out. They are around this time. "Yeah, Tamim and Shakib are the most senior players for Bangladesh team," Nabi said. "[But] if you look at the conditions in Bangladesh, it is totally different."

Afghanistan have several strapping fast bowlers, and believe that the bouncier conditions in Australia will suit them more. Nabi also said that a few Afghanistan players' exposure to the Bangladesh Premier League had given them knowledge about their opponents. Ironically, it was a BPL condition that a franchise had to have a player each from an Associate nation.

The Afghans themselves are "excited" to be at their first World Cup, Moles said, but not nervous. They defeated UAE in a warm-up match and batted out the entire 50 overs against India, something Bangladesh could not do in both their practice matches. They are a side that will test all their opponents if they can get their act together, Moles said.

What they needed to watch out for was too much aggression, the coach felt. "What happens is the Afghans, when we don't play our best cricket, we get a bit excited," Moles said. "We want to hit fours and sixes."

That is the challenge usually for the lesser teams, to properly construct an innings over 50 overs in a one-dayer. Nabi has said before that Afghanistan need to sustain their intensity over the duration of a match. It is something that used to be said of Bangladesh in the past as well.

Afghanistan are the flavour of the cricket world at the moment for their remarkable rise amid war, and how much their performances mean for people faced with hardships back home. Amidst all that, it is worthwhile to remember that the passion for the game in Bangladesh is widespread and overwhelming to witness, and probably second to none. Despite their usually disappointing performances, they have a big media contingent following the team on tours.

Several Bangladeshi fans are also expected to travel from Sydney to watch their side play Afghanistan in Canberra. Mashrafe was conscious of the tremendous following Bangladesh enjoy, both at home and away. There may be dual pressure on his side, but he will not want them to drive back disappointed.

Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sherbaba75 on February 18, 2015, 10:17 GMT

    Good luck my Bangladesh brothers in todays match against AFG. We indians are with you. We beat PAK few days back and BANGLADESH will beat AFG (Pseudo PAK) team today.

  • dummy4fb on February 18, 2015, 2:57 GMT

    I don't know if Mominul is kept in team who was the top scorer in only ODI against afg. Nasir was second highest. Shakib, Tamum Mahmudullah Mashrafe were not present. Now play the power cricket BD. Yes. BAN is a bit unstable in power cricket. But they have got the potentiality. Show it man.

  • itsmewhoismhk on February 18, 2015, 1:39 GMT

    I remember the first time bangladesh went to WC in 1999. We were so excited. I know how Afghan people are feeling. Good luck to Afghanistan Cricket Team . From a bangladeshi fan.

  • dummy4fb on February 18, 2015, 1:29 GMT

    For BD team: avoid any unnecessary runouts in the early part of innings or because of misunderstanding. Tamim must capitalise the powerplay. I don't want to see Anamul in thus very 1st match. Mominul was the highest scorer in the only ODI against Afghan, he was retired after making 52 notout in the first practice match against Aus.

  • dr.bulbul on February 18, 2015, 0:35 GMT

    Bangladesh will easily beat Afganistan today. Do not think that they can beat us again.

  • NoorBD on February 17, 2015, 23:34 GMT

    Good Luck Afgan, Good Luck Bangla. To all my Afgan friends: Let us not fight, let us compete. Let's make the game beautiful by making it competitive. Do not look each other as a rival, just take as a friend.

  • CRIC_911 on February 17, 2015, 22:25 GMT

    AFG and BD fans, both are talking like AFG already won and BD already lost. The game didnt even start yet. What if BD wins and AFG loses? CRICKET is an unpredictable game. Just wait and watch the game peacefully instead of bad mouthing each other.

  • Tanveer.bd on February 17, 2015, 20:36 GMT

    Well said Mr. Wahid. AFG is a good aggressive team but its not about being aggressive all the time. They need to learn constructing an innings, bowlers need to bowl in partnerships.

  • MAN_AT_WORK on February 17, 2015, 18:39 GMT

    Banglathegreat@ i suggested you not to follow cricket it might give u heart attack

  • banglathegreat on February 17, 2015, 18:21 GMT

    Ireland have better odds to win the cup than Bangladesh. How demoralizing for the team and nation.

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