Rashid Khan: We have more youngsters now than before. Most of the guys enjoy this short format • ICC via Getty
Rashid Khan believes that Afghanistan's relatively younger side enjoying T20s is making a big difference. Their eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup opener sent out a warning to the rest of the participants that when they combine well as a team, they can be quite dangerous.
Rashid, regarded among T20's elite, said that their contest against Bangladesh on Tuesday will tilt towards the side that handles the pressure better, but stressed on how well Afghanistan have prepared ahead of this tournament.
"We have more youngsters now than before," Rashid said. "Most of the guys enjoy this short format. We are playing in Sharjah after a long time, but at the same time, our cricket remains the same. We know our roles. We are playing Bangladesh away for the first time since Dehradun, so it has been four years. At the same time, whoever plays better cricket and controls their nerve in the big game, they will do the best. As a team, we will prepare well and go with a fresh mind and enjoy the cricket."
Afghanistan are benefiting from playing a lot of franchise T20 over the last few years. Indeed, many of the capped and uncapped Afghan players are in high demand in most of the leagues. Rashid believes that they are making up for the lack of international cricket with franchise exposure.
"We don't play a lot of longer format cricket," he said. "It is about the FTP, and not in the players' hands. We want to play a lot of international cricket, so that our youngsters can understand the environment to improve their skills. Since we play a lot of international leagues, it gives us the opportunity to learn from the best players. We bring that experience to the international team. We share that with the rest of the team.
"Specially in the batting department it helps if we play more international leagues. If there's international duty, you have to be present. It is always first priority. But we are hopeful of playing more international games in the coming years."
Meanwhile, Bangladesh have much to prove after going down to ODI and T20I series defeats in Zimbabwe recently. Even so, Rashid knows not to take them lightly, like his Sri Lankan counterpart Dasun Shanaka who termed Bangladesh as a "weaker opponent" to Afghanistan.
"It will be different condition in Sharjah tomorrow," he said. "Shakib [Al Hasan] is the skipper, the most experienced player in the side. It makes a huge difference. But we think about our process. It is in the players' mind. We know our roles and jobs tomorrow. We don't think about the result, whether we beat them or not.
"We don't think opposition is weak or strong. You can't say that in cricket. It is something that you never handle the result of the game. For us, every opposition is tough. We have to take the opposition seriously, and be well prepared. If we are playing Hong Kong or India tomorrow, we will have the same preparation."
Sriram, who only joined the team a few days before their departure from Dhaka, said that proper communication and role clarity are some of the first things he has tried to establish with the team.
"I think it is about role clarity," he said. "One thing we have made an effort to do is, be as clear in communication as possible to what to expect from everyone. Players are aware of their roles. Once we get there, we will assess conditions and probably take the right call.
"We are clear about our game style. What we want to play. I have played in Sharjah so many times. It is good that we didn't practice there. Practice facilities are not great in Sharjah. We have had very good facilities here, so we are happy with what we got."
Bangladesh go into the Asia Cup having lost series to West Indies and Zimbabwe, and looking confused in many aspects of the game. But Sriram is hopeful that with the right encouragement, things can change.
"We have to give them the freedom to play," he said. "Ability-wise there's no doubt that Bangladesh has the ability to do it. But it is about going out there, and getting the confidence. Keep expressing themselves, keep doing the job."