After winning the 2023 ICC Twenty20 World Cup qualifier, captain of the Bangladesh women’s team Nigar Sultana is now eyeing the Asia Cup title. Nigar expressed this desire while speaking to Prothom Alo over the phone before the seven-team tournament begins at the Sylhet International Cricket Stadium on Saturday.

Your team is entering the Asia Cup after successive victories. As captain, this must give you a lot of relief…

Nothing could be more relaxing for a captain than the team doing well. As captain, I believe the team is in a very good spot ahead of the Asia Cup. Moreover, this team has been playing together for a long time. We have a good understanding between ourselves. Day by day, our performances are getting better. The team is united, everyone is eager to do well.

How much pressure are you feeling as the defending champions of the Asia Cup?

I feel that the people’s expectations can never be thought of us pressure. Because, expectations make us see new dreams. Everyone is optimistic about the Asia Cup. In this tournament too, I see Bangladesh in an advantageous position. The Asia Cup is happening on our home soil, we will try to keep the trophy at home.

India, just like in previous editions, are the tournament favourites. They are coming into the tournament after winning a series in England. What do you think about India’s chances?

India is not the only good team. There are Sri Lanka and Pakistan too. Thailand is also playing good cricket in the T20 format. The remaining two teams are also not doing too poorly. You can never predict what will happen in a T20 match. The team that commits fewer mistakes on a given day will end up as victors. I want to see ourselves in the final. Which team joins us in the final is not important.

Nigar Sultana seen during a practice session at the Sylhet International Cricket Stadium ahead of the Women's Asia Cup
Anis Mahmud

Personally, you are in good form. You were the second highest run-getter in the T20 World Cup qualifiers…

I have worked with the coaches on my batting. Especially about how I can score runs quickly in the format and lengthen my innings. I have been in good form for some time. I have scored some runs in domestic cricket too, which gave me confidence of scoring runs at the international level. I also scored runs in the national league and in the practice games. Hopefully, I will be able to maintain this form in the Asia Cup.

I was worried about the team’s batting. How relieving is the fact that the top-order is regularly scoring runs?

In T20s, a lot depends on the top-order. Because, when three-four batters score runs at the top of the order, it becomes easier for the middle-order and the finishers to score runs quickly. This is good for the team. Those who are batting at the top-order are in good form right now.

Nigar Sultana wants to keep the Asia Cup trophy in Bangladesh
Prothom Alo

Bangladesh’s main strength is bowling. How much has the bowling department contributed in Bangladesh’s winning streak?

Our bowling department has always deserved praise because they have always performed well for us. This is our strength. Earlier, we used to see that no matter how well the bowlers bowled, we were losing matches as the batters couldn’t score runs. But that’s not the case any longer. This is a big achievement for the team. If we can post a good score in the format, score more than 140 runs, it would be difficult for the opponent team to chase that total with the bowling and fielding we possess.

Who could be the surprise package in the Asia Cup?

I can take a few names. Sanjida Akhter has been performing well consistently, she is bowling really well. She hasn’t captured a lot of wickets, but she is bowling really economically. I am hoping that she will also do well in the Asia Cup. Out of the batters, I will take Farjana Hoque’s name. If she performs well, it will extremely tough for the opponent to win the match.

*This interview appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy