Bangladesh coach seeks to ease World Cup pressure

Southampton (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Bangladesh head coach Steve Rhodes says he is trying to keep the pressure off his players as he targets a World Cup semi-final berth.

The Mashrafe Mortaza-led side have two victories from six league games and need to win their remaining three matches to have a realistic chance of making the final four.

On paper their next game, against Afghanistan in Southampton on Monday, is easily winnable but the Afghans came close to shocking India on the same ground on Saturday and cannot be underestimated.

Sri Lanka beat hosts England at Headingley on Friday to revive their hopes of reaching the last four, at the same time boosting Bangladesh's chances.

"If you think too hard about it being do-or-die then you can put too much pressure on yourself," said former England wicketkeeper-batsman Rhodes.

"So I'll be trying to take a little bit of that pressure off the team.

"They know the importance of the game, but my job is to make sure we concentrate on the game, and we do some smart things, and we play well because, if we play well, we'll have a good chance of winning."

Bangladesh have beaten South Africa and the West Indies, with their batsmen racking up scores of 300-plus in both encounters.

Unfancied Afghanistan thumped Bangladesh in last year's Asia Cup although Bangladesh avenged their loss later in the tournament.

"We can definitely draw on the experience in the Asia Cup. It was a wonderfully close tournament and we were almost able to win the final," said Rhodes, whose team came up short against India.

"If you really break it down and we do win these matches coming up, we only need five games and we've won the World Cup.

"The first challenge and the first step is Afghanistan.They're a tough team. They're a tough bunch of cricketers. They really fought hard against India."

Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib is once again banking on his top-class spinners, led by Rashid Khan, to overcome Bangladesh.

Mohammad Nabi was impressive on Saturday and was ably supported by Rashid and Mujeeb Ur Rahman as Afghanistan, who have now lost all six of their matches at the World Cup, restricted India to 224 for eight in 50 overs.

"You saw against India. India has the best batting attack all over the world," said Naib.

"So if the wicket helps our spinners, maybe it's very difficult for everyone, not only Bangladesh. Our spinners are one of the best spin attacks in the world."