Mohammad Nabi concedes that ineptitude against quality spin was the main problem for his batsmen
“This is the most relaxed that I have been going into any international match,” sad Shakib, Man of the Match for figures of 3 for 8 from 3.1 overs, after Bangladesh’s nine-wicket win. “Not just me, the entire team was extremely relaxed. The whole team sort of knew that we would win today and that it would be a one-sided affair. I was sitting having a banana, and I wanted to throw the skin into the dustbin from where I was sitting. I told myself that if it fell in, they would be bowled out inside 40, otherwise they would be dismissed for less than 80. They made 72, so obviously the banana skin fell outside the dustbin.”
Shakib admitted to feeling both delight and relief after Bangladesh got its own back against Afghanistan, which had stunned them in the Asia Cup recently. “The immediate emotions are joy and relief,” he said. “It was an important match, our first match of the tournament, and it was crucial to start well, so I am both happy and relieved. The Asia Cup was a one-off; we knew that if we played to our potential, we were too good for Afghanistan. We played well overall, in all three departments. The fielding was particularly good, we effected run outs to get rid of two good batsmen and we also held our catches. If the fielding is good, it lifts the morale of a team, especially in a T20 match where every run becomes vital.”
From the tournament’s perspective, Shakib said, it was important for Bangladesh to make it to the next round. “It is very important for the tournament that we qualify for the main round because if the host team is not playing, there will obviously be a shortage of crowds,” he argued. “If we win the next two games and qualify, it will be a very good tournament overall.”
Next up for Bangladesh, in Chittagong for the rest of the Group A qualifying stage, are Nepal and Hong Kong. “We have seen a few matches on YouTube, we have a fair idea about those teams,” offered Shakib. “We will also see videos of those teams before the matches. But it is important for us as a team to improve on this performance. It is important to maintain the momentum because all T20 matches are tough. One batsman or one bowler, even one over, can change the game, so we have to be fully focussed.”
Mohammad Nabi, the Afghanistan captain, said his team could have stretched Bangladesh had they put up a score in the region of 120-130. “We didn’t expect the pitch to help spin like it did,” said Nabi. “They bowled very well, they got turn and extra bounce because of which we struggled a little bit in the middle. If we had put more runs on the board, it could have been a very good game. We didn’t have the kind of team to lose like that, but the condition of the pitch made it too difficult for us.”
Nabi conceded that Afghanistan needed to up its game against spin. “During the Asia Cup and today too, we saw that we struggle against quality spinners,” he admitted. “We will try our best to improve against the spinners. The conditions are such in Asia, and especially in Bangladesh, that we come up against good spinners on turning tracks. We will try to come up with stronger performances in the next two games.
“It was a big game, a pressure game. We didn’t handle the pressure well, that’s why we lost the match. If we can win our two remaining games with a good average and if Bangladesh lose one more, we will come back into contention. It’s cricket, you never know what can happen.”