Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim (L) briefs the media on their four-week camp for the upcoming tour of the West Indies as coach Chandika Hathurusingha listens in Mirpur on Sunday. PHOTO: STAR
Bangladesh's last tour of the West Indies, back in 2009, saw an emphatic display from all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan-- albeit against a weakened Caribbean setup-- lead the Tigers to whitewash the home side in both the ODI and Test series.
Having been unexpectedly handed over the captaincy after Mashrafe Bin Mortaza got injured during the first Test, the left-hander performed gallantly both with the bat and ball and deservingly was adjudged the player of both series.
After five years Bangladesh head towards the Caribbean on August 13 on the back of a distasteful record-- nine defeats out of ten this year-- sans Shakib, now serving a six-month ban on disciplinary ground.
Are the Tigers without their best player bound to suffer in the West Indies this time? This is the biggest question Bangladesh think-tank is confronting as the Tigers embark on a tough series against a full – strength Caribbean team.
The importance of the player was perhaps best described yesterday by head coach Chandika Hathurusingha at Mirpur, where the Tigers rounded off a four-week conditioning camp.
"He is two players in one so replacing him is hard at this stage," he said.
"But we have enough players that we have selected keeping in mind our game plan. So I am happy with the team. We want to do everything possible to get an away win." he added.
Bangladesh Captain Mushfiqur Rahim hoped that the absence of Shakib could, on the contrary, motivate his players to work harder and hit form.
"Yes he (Shakib) is a big performer and has been a great contributor for the last 8 years. But cricket is not a one-man game, we need at least three to four players to perform in our team. So from that aspect we need our players, who haven't been in form and have been working hard to get motivated," he remarked.
However, it's not all dark and gloom for the Tigers. In order to be inspired, all they need to do is to have a look at the way they played in their last series against the West Indies in 2012, where a Shakib-less Tigers beat Chris Gayle and Co 3-2 in the ODIs.
While those memories still remain fresh in Mushfiqur's mind, he admits that it would be a difficult task to repeat the same this time. According to him this time Bangladesh's primary target will be to play 'consistent cricket'.
"It will be difficult. International cricket is not easy. Our first target is to play consistent cricket. If we can do that we would have won matches along the way," said Mushfiqur.
"I think the West Indians will also be under pressure because they lost their last series to New Zealand at home. So hopefully we can do well," he added.
The key according to the captain would be to adjust to the conditions there as soon as possible.
"We have not played longer version cricket for a long time, so that will be a challenge. We have a one day practice game, a one day series and then a three-day practice match before the Test series begins. So we need to adjust to the conditions as soon as possible," he reckoned.
Coach Hathurusingha was similarly pragmatic. While he admits that there are certain aspects of Bangladesh's game that are yet to be tested in order to know their strong points, he hopes his spinners and batsmen can do the job.
With Bangladesh yet to win a single ODI this year, breaking that jinx in the West Indies would be a tough ask. It's an aspect that Mushfiqur is aware of and in order to counter it, he aims to follow the only possible strategy available to him: forget the past.
As he puts it, "We have a number of games this year and the only thing we can do is look ahead and hope to meet the task."
Bangladesh leave for the West Indies on August 13 to play three ODIs, one T20I and two Tests. The first ODI will take place on August 20.