Pallekele: Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will be eager to shake off modest ODI form and spate of injuries to key players as they seek to start their Asia Cup campaign on a winning note when they face each other here on Thursday.
Sri Lanka, who won the Asia Cup in 2022 in its T20 avatar, could not even announce their squad for this edition till Tuesday, courtesy niggles and COVID-19 infection to a couple of players.
The Lankans lost Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara and Dilshan Madhushanka to various injuries, while Kusal Perera, who last played an ODI in 2021, is yet to make full recovery from COVID-19 infection.
But even before these setbacks, Sri Lanka’s run in the ODIs this year has been sub-par.
They started the year with a 0-3 drubbing at the hands of India, and then lost to New Zealand 0-2.
The Islanders managed to beat Afghanistan at home before mounting a good run in the ICC Qualifiers in Harare, but the inability to lift their game against top opponents will worry them.
They will require runs from Pathum Nissanka (687 runs in 2023), Dimuth Karunaratne (481 runs) and Charith Asalanka (341 runs), their best batters this year so far, to challenge Bangladesh.
They will also hope that skipper Dasun Shanaka, who has not fired for the whole year except a hundred against India, will find his touch against Bangladesh.
On the bowling front, spinner Maheesh Theekshana (23 wickets from 10 matches in 2023) and pacer Kasun Rajitha (14 wickets) will have to cover the absence of frontline bowlers.
The only solace for Sri Lanka could be that Bangladesh too have been in the same boat as them.
Bangladesh will miss the services of injured Tamim Iqbal, pacer Ebadot Hossain and wicketkeeper-batter Litton Das, but that is only a speck in the larger picture.
Das was on Wednesday ruled out of the entire duration of Asia Cup as he could not recover from viral fever. The 30-year-old wicketkeeper-batter Anamul Haque Bijoy was named as Das’ replacement.
Bangladesh, generally a strong force at home, lost ODI series against England and Afghanistan this year.
The victory over Ireland would not be sufficient to ease their concerns coming into the Asia Cup. They, however, have individual performers in both batting and bowling.
Captain Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Najmul Shanto have scored more than 400 runs this year, while youngster Towhid Hridoy too has made over 300. But a good chunk of those runs came against Ireland.
The experienced Mustafizur Rahman, Shoriful Islam and Taskin Ahmed have come up with adequate performances on the bowling front this year but haven’t been able to deliver against quality rivals like England or India.
Individual worries apart, a win in Thursday’s match is important for both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, as they face a tricky Afghanistan in their respective next fixture in Group B.
Both the teams will be keen for a win because the equations of net run rate might come into play as there are predictions of rains here.
The Teams (From): Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (captain), Pathum Nissanaka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Janith Perera, Kusal Mendis (vc), Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Maheesh Theekshana, Dunith Wellalage, Matheesha Pathirana, Kasun Rajitha, Dushan Hemantha, Binura Fernando, Pramod Madushan.
Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan (Captain), Najmul Hossain Shanto, Tawhid Hridoy, Mushfiqur Rahim, Afif Hossain Dhrubo, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Taskin Ahmed, Hasan Mahmud, Mustafizur Rahman, Shoriful Islam, Nasum Ahmed, Shak Mahedi Hasan, Naim Sheikh, Shamim Hossain, Tanzid Hasan Tamim, Tanzim Hasan Sakib, Anamul Haque Bijoy.
Match starts at 3pm IST.