Mushfiqur confident of young players firing
A slew of late injuries may have thinned Bangladesh's ranks by the time they landed in Sri Lanka for their month-long tour, but captain Mushfiqur Rahim remained optimistic about his side's chances, and backed his young players to fire.
Bangladesh arrived in Sri Lanka without allrounder Shakib Al Hasan, whose calf surgery following a stress injury will keep him out for at least six weeks, while batsmen Shahriar Nafees and Naeem Islam, and left-arm spinner Enamul Haque jr will also miss the tour through injury. Their replacements include 21-year-old batsman Mominul Haque and 24-year-old uncapped allrounder Marshall Ayub, but it is likely to be the more established youngsters in the squad who will be called upon to bear more responsibility in the absence of several key seniors.
Bangladesh won their last ODI series against West Indies 3-2 in November, with instrumental contributions for 20-year-old batsman Anamul Haque and 21-year-old offspinner Sohag Gazi, and Mushfiqur hoped his players would ride the momentum from that series into the Sri Lanka tour.
"We had a couple of injuries in the last series against West Indies, and Shakib was not part of the ODI series - but we still won that series. The couple of young guys who came into the side in his place performed really well. We'll miss him, but it's a chance for the younger guys to prove they can do well abroad as well as at home."
Bangladesh last met Sri Lanka in an Asia Cup match in Dhaka, when the hosts defeated Sri Lanka by five wickets to earn a place in the tournament final. They had also beaten India earlier in the tournament, and their ODI record in 2012, when they won more matches than they lost against top-eight opposition, suggests they are an improving side.
"There is no secret to our success," Mushfiqur said. "The boys have really been working hard for the last one or two years. Someone needed to put their hands up and do the basics in the middle, and that's what we did in the recent series against West Indies and also in the Asia Cup. The youngsters have come good and are performing really well, so hopefully they will continue in the same way."
The Sri Lanka tour begins with Tests however, where Bangladesh have been less impressive. Bangladesh achieved a slim first-innings lead in the first Test against West Indies in November, but could not sustain those standards throughout the Test, as they faltered in the final innings in pursuit of 245. There were encouraging periods in the second Test as well, most notably a maiden ton to debutant Abul Hasan from No. 10, but they were ultimately walloped by 10 wickets.
"In the Test match we have to play each session very well and keep doing that over and over. In the last series against West Indies we did really well, but we couldn't finish well in both the Tests. The young players are coming good, so if they put their hands up and perform, we will have a competitive Test series. "
Bangladesh travel to Matara on Friday, to prepare for a three-day warm-up match against a Sri Lanka emerging side, which begins on Sunday. The first Test starts in Galle on March 8. In addition to two Tests, Bangladesh play three ODIs and a Twenty20.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here