Need wins abroad, not just starts - Mashrafe
Ahead of the first ODI against Sri Lanka in Dambulla, Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza has said his side has to start winning games abroad and not just think about starting well.
He said that after winning against India, Pakistan and South Africa in ODI series' at home in 2015, Bangladesh's next target was to do the same in foreign conditions. Their 3-0 defeat, though, to New Zealand was a reminder that they still have a long way to go.
"Even if we are ahead of Sri Lanka, we have to play our best game," Mashrafe said. "In Tests, you need maturity to play long innings, but in ODIs, a couple of 60s and 70s can make a difference. We did well at home, but our challenge started in New Zealand. We couldn't do it there, despite creating a lot of chances. In the second and third ODI, we gave away good starts. We have to hold on to good starts here, both with bat and ball. Home teams have extra advantage. So, I think both teams are starting on equal."
Mashrafe refused to call themselves favourites, echoing the tone Bangladesh had maintained ahead of the Test series. Though they ended up losing the first Test by 259 runs in Galle, they came back strong to level the series.
He said that they have to stick to their plans, and if that doesn't happen, he wants his players to keep fighting till the end. "I never say anything extra. I think Sri Lanka have a more matured squad in the ODIs than the Tests. It is not going to be easy for us. A small innings can change things in the ODIs and T20Is. We have to try to execute our plans to the full, or we just have to fight till the end," he said.
Mashrafe added that they are not thinking about their ODI ranking, which could see a significant change at the end of this series. If they win 2-1 or 3-0, they will go up to as high as 96 points, which would level them with Sri Lanka at No. 6. If they lose by the same margin, they can go down to as low as 88 points, below Pakistan, to No. 8, reducing their chances of automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup.
"[Ranking] is always in the back of our mind, but only thinking about the 2019 World Cup would put a lot of pressure on the players," Mashrafe said. "They are enjoying cricket at the moment, which is the most important part. If we think about the ranking, we wouldn't be able to play our normal game. When we reached No. 7, we didn't think about rankings during those matches. It is hard to think about those things," he said.
On the eve of the first ODI, Mashrafe felt the Dambulla pitch was 'hard to predict'.
"It is hard to judge the wicket. We played here a long time ago. It looks good, but it is hard to predict whether it will start turning at some point. We have to be mentally ready that anything might happen. But, at first look, it seems a good batting wicket," he said.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84