The Bangladesh cricket team leave the city tonight for a 37-day tour of West Indies with questions about their ability to emerge from their rough patch this year hanging over their heads. There is not much strength to be drawn from what they achieved during their last Caribbean trip in 2009 against an under-strength West Indies; Mushfiqur Rahim's men instead desperately need to regain some rhythm and form to make their presence felt in international cricket in 2014, a year during which they have had no success whatsoever save for T20 victories over Afghanistan and Nepal.
Expectations are not too high about this trip, coming as it does on the back of a string of losses -- including an ODI loss against Afghanistan and a T20 defeat to Hong Kong -- but anything short of a competent show will set the cat amongst the pigeons as far as preparations for next year's World Cup is concerned. The minimum expectation from the Tigers will be that they get their basics right on a consistent basis, an aspect that has been missing in their performances in 2014.
Half the team will be under the scanner and if they fail to regain their form they may even jeopardise their place in the team.
Opener Tamim Iqbal did end up hitting form in the last two practice games that he played in, but his form this year has been extremely poor; to the extent that the selectors decided to pick four openers for the team's top order.
Bangladesh's highest ODI wicket-taker Abdur Razzak is another player whose form has been a concern. He had a lacklustre performance during the World T20 and has an astounding bowling average of 109 this year. Questions have been raised as to whether the time has come for the veteran left-arm spinner to call it a day.
Mahmudullah Riyad and Shohag Gazi will also have to prove their worth in order to maintain their place in the side. Riyad has an ODI batting average of 12.83 this year and has already become an irregular in the Test side. Gazi's fall in form can ironically be traced to his rapid rise in late 2012 and 2013. His form and behavioural issues have led to even the Dhaka Premier League clubs snubbing him during the players' transfers.
Nasir Hossain has steadily moved away from the 'Mr Dependable' tag while Shamsur Rahman has not lived up to his early potential.
With this backdrop, it would be interesting to see how new head coach Chandika Hathurusingha motivates his side in his first real international assignment as a head coach of a national team, especially as he will miss the services of the talismanic Shakib Al Hasan, who is serving a six-month ban.
Before leaving the country, the new coach conducted a fitness and skills training camp for his charges, who also played two preparation matches where struggling batsmen like Tamim and Mominul got back among the runs.
Bangladesh have twice previously visited the West Indies, in 2004 and 2009, for full series.
A 15-members team was announced for the ODI series, the matches of which are scheduled for August 20, 22 and 25. The only T20I will take place on August 27. The selectors will decide on the T20 squad when the remaining players join the team on August 24 for the Test series.
If the selectors stick to their initial plan then it is all but confirmed that Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Taskin Ahmed and Abdur Razzak will return after the limited-overs series.
The Tigers will start their Caribbean journey with a one-day practice match on August 17 at the Progress Park in Grenada. They are also scheduled to play a three-day practice match from August 30 at St. Kitts before the start of the two-match Test series, to be held at St. Vincent (September 5-9) and St. Lucia (September 13-17).