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'We do well when we aren't thinking about opposition' - Shakib on Bangladesh's T20 approach

Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan is expecting more from his batters as two-match T20I series begins on Friday

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Rashid Khan and Shakib Al Hasan pose with the T20 trophy, Bangladesh vs Afghanistan, 1st T20I, Sylhet, July 13, 2023

Rashid Khan and Shakib Al Hasan pose with the T20 trophy  •  BCB

Shakib Al Hasan and Rashid Khan, two of the best allrounders around the world, are banking on their teams being spontaneous on the field when Bangladesh and Afghanistan meet in the two-match T20I series in Sylhet on Friday.
Afghanistan won the ODI series 2-1, but both teams come into the shortest format with good form. Bangladesh beat world champions England 3-0, and Ireland 2-1 in their last two T20I series, both played at home. Afghanistan, in their previous outing, outplayed Pakistan, the T20 World Cup runners-up, to clinch the series 2-1 in UAE .
The Bangladesh captain hopes that his team would continue to play aggressively, but also feels the result will depend on how well they start with both bat and ball.
"We played well in the last two home series but this is a new challenge for us," Shakib said. "Afghanistan is definitely a good team. We want to perform in the way we have recently played cricket. We are not thinking about any particular individual. We are also not relying on a particular batter or bowler. We want to win through a team performance, but we will try to keep our intention intact.
"I am sure those who know that they need to improve in particular areas will do so. It is not something that needs to be told. A player will react according to the situation to perform for the team. Momentum is very important for T20s. I have a feeling that the result will depend a lot on how we start, whether with the bat or ball."
Rashid, who has been leading Afghanistan since December 2022, is expecting his batters to step up. "We need to get better in batting as well," he said. "We have had enough time in international cricket. We have the skills and talent. It is just about performing as well. If we can get a couple of batters like them (Bangladesh), especially in the middle overs, where we struggle in the longer format... If we fulfil that department, we can be winning more games.
"But still, you need to play games against quality teams. The batters who did well against Bangladesh in the ODIs, I feel that they should play more cricket around the world. (Rahmanullah) Gurbaz and Ibrahim (Zadran) playing in leagues will give them the experience to get better. In the next three to five years, we can fulfil that department. We started producing good fast bowlers as well. It is important for spinners to get a good base."
"We need to get better in batting as well. We have had enough time in international cricket. We have the skills and talent"
Rashid wants Afghanistan batters to perform better
Shakib reasoned that Bangladesh are doing well in T20Is of late because they don't fret about conditions and opposition. He added that the weather in Sylhet would also require his team to think on their feet. "We do well as a team when we don't worry about the opposition. We do well when we are open-minded and always thinking about giving that 10-20 percent improvement. We don't do well when we worry too much about the conditions and opponents.
"We have to be prepared for anything in this [wet] weather. There might be a shorter game. It might be a five, ten, 15 or 18-over game. We have to be open about it. We have to decide the team just before the toss knowing how many overs we will play."
Rashid also believes Afghanistan have enough firepower down the order, particularly among the allrounders, to not need him as a batter too much. "I think we have enough allrounders in the team. If the team needs me, I will try my best to bat up the order. But at the moment, we have so many quality allrounders. They know what to do. We have that flexibility in the batting order. Mentally, everyone is ready to bat in any position," he said.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84