Themorningbellbd.com desk, December 24: A fitter, faster Bangladesh (BD) will focus on showing up well-prepared to face New Zealand (NZ) as they look for their first series win in the country.
Little can be gleaned about a rivalry where the teams have played only two times in the last three years, but a look back at bilateral records between Bangladesh and New Zealand throws up interesting numbers. While Bangladesh have been on the losing side between 2001 and 2010 at home and away, in the recent past they have had the wood on New Zealand, especially in ODIs.
Bangladesh’s 3-0 win in the 2013 ODI series was a follow-up to the surprising 4-0 result in 2010. Bangladesh had a quiet 2014. But since 2015, they have become a fitter, faster and smoother team. In the 2015 World Cup, New Zealand’s bowlers were made to work hard by Bangladesh in one of their closest matches during the group stage.
Bangladesh followed that up with a hot streak at home, beating three top sides in ODIs. They have played six matches in 2016, with three wins and as many losses, but still enjoyed success with a maiden Test victory over England recently.
The trip to New Zealand is Bangladesh’s first bilateral away tour after visiting the West Indies in August 2014. Since that West Indies tour, Bangladesh have won 21 out of 29 ODIs and have an average scoring rate of 5.48 per over, compared to an overall rate of 4.44. That improvement in the run rate is telling as it has meant bigger scores, and, thus, more cushion for the bowling unit.
Along the way, they have discovered match-winners like Mustafizur Rahman, Sabbir Rahman, Soumya Sarkar and Mehedi Hasan Miraz, even as senior players like Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mashrafe Mortaza, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah have gone deeper into their roles in various formats.
To gain all-round balance, head coach Chandika Hathurusingha has put in place a stringent training regimen since the 2015 World Cup, stressing on a high degree of preparation before every competition. This approach has been followed for the New Zealand tour too. Bangladesh trained in Sydney for nine days, playing two practice matches, and arrived early in New Zealand where they played another practice match.
Although they lost in Whangerei on Thursday, Bangladesh have shown they are a better-prepared side, with long pre-series camps and practice games in conditions similar to the ones likely for the matches. Allrounder Mahmudullah is perhaps the best example of how a cricketer can improve by leaps and bounds even after playing international cricket for eight years.
During the training camp at home and in Australia prior to the 2015 World Cup, Mahmudullah’s constant use of a granite slab to master shots on the up helped him score two centuries in the tournament. Earlier this year, his work during training camps in Khulna and Chittagong made him Bangladesh’s designated hitter in T20s.
Hathurusingha and limited-overs captain Mashrafe have also put in much effort to build a strong pace attack. During the World Cup, Rubel Hossain and Taskin Ahmed bowled well before Bangladesh discovered Mustafizur, whose bag of tricks has changed the way opponents think about the side’s bowling.
For the ODIs against New Zealand, they have seamers Subashis Roy, Kamrul Islam Rabbi and the raw Ebadat Hossain in the mix. Subashis was picked for the Test against England but did not get a game. Rabbi is proficient at bowling yorkers, while little is known about Ebadat, who at this time last year, was playing volleyball for the Bangladesh Air Force.
Bangladesh would also want their skilled batting unit to carry their form at home into the matches overseas. Tamim is currently the team’s best batsman and he will be expected to bring his experience into the fold against New Zealand’s vaunted pace attack.
Imrul Kayes has developed into a more aggressive opener while Sabbir, Mahmudullah, Shakib, and newcomer Mosaddek Hossain will look to provide stability at different stages of the innings. Sabbir and Mosaddek also have their own challenges: while Sabbir will look to get over his off-field actions during the BPL, Mosaddek has yet to pass the short-ball test.
Fans in New Zealand would remember a tame Bangladesh unit touring the shores in previous years, notching up losses like the one in the Queenstown ODI in 2007, which remains the largest margin of defeat in a match between Full Members in terms of balls remaining. This time, however, a different team will walk out to play – one that crushed New Zealand at home, one that runs faster, and bats and bowls with more heart and mind in the contest.