DUBAI: Scheduling gaffes in the Asia Cup have angered Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza. His grouses were two-fold: that Bangladesh, if they topped their group following Thursday’s match, would not have the advantage of playing the second-placed team from the other group in their opening Super Four match on Friday; and that their two matches on consecutive days would be in two different cities, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Until Wednesday, oddly, only India had been designated a label – A1 – in the tournament handbook. No other team, in the handbook at least, had labels assigned to them. All the handbook specified was that A1 and B1 would play B2 and A2 respectively on the opening day of the Super Fours.
It was assumed accordingly that teams from Group B would slot in as B1 or B2 based on where they finished in the first round of matches. However, on Wednesday it was learnt that this is not the case. Instead, it was learnt, Bangladesh were labelled B2 ahead of the tournament and would remain B2 irrespective of where they finished on the Group B table. This meant Bangladesh would play India on Friday, with Pakistan squaring off against Afghanistan.
All this confusion, it is understood, stems from the BCCI having “erred while documenting the official tournament handbook”. The Indian board, which is the official host of this edition of the Asia Cup, admitted to an error of omission in not mentioning that Bangladesh were B2 and so on. Consent was apparently sought from the chief executives of all the six participating boards before finalising the schedule.
Mashrafe, however, couldn’t wrap himself around these revelations midway through the tournament. “It is very disappointing,” he said. “Even a mad person would be upset. Basically what has happened is that we were made the second team in Group B even before we played the last game. It is frustrating.
“We came here with a plan. We would play Sri Lanka first and if we won and played well [against Afghanistan], we would be group champions and play the runners-up of Group A. But this morning we heard that we are already Group B runners-up regardless of whether we win or lose. So, of course, it is disappointing.”
Another point of contention with the schedule is that India plays all their games in Dubai while the other teams switch venues between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, even while all the teams are staying in Dubai. This means playing India in their first Super Four game could be a blessing in disguise for Bangladesh, while Afghanistan – barring a late change in plan – will have to make the 90-minute journey between the cities two days in a row. Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed had criticised this aspect of the scheduling at his pre-match press conference ahead of the India game.
Mashrafe also pointed out a lack of rest due to all the travel could have repercussions on players’ fitness. Bangladesh is already without their senior batsman Tamim Iqbal, who has returned home after injuring his wrist during their opening game against Sri Lanka on September 15.
Mashrafe said his team had no choice but to go with these decisions. “We’ll play – of course, it is an international match where we are representing our nation, so of course it’s important. But whether you are talking about group stage matches or Super Four matches, there are certain rules within which they operate. We are getting away from the rules, so it’s disappointing.”