Tigers take on Zim as new era starts

The cold and fog may not allow the sun to shine bright on the skies of Dhaka today but the Tigers will be hoping for a bright start to the new year following a rather gloomy atmosphere since their disastrous tour of South Africa which ended on a lowly note.

From the surprising departure of Chandika Hathurusingha following his resignation in the middle of the South Africa tour to dropping two of the most exciting prospects in Soumya Sarkar and Taskin Ahmed from the squad due to a lack of form, the first series of the new year is expected to throw the challenge of being regrouped to the Tigers.

And that challenge starts today as the hosts take on Zimbabwe in the first game of the tri-nation ODI series, starting at 12:00pm at the Sher-e-Bangla National stadium in Mirpur, with the other team in the competition being Hathurunsingha's Sri Lanka.

On paper, Zimbabwe are the underdogs in this series and the hosts should be favourites for this match as they have strung a streak of 11 wins out of 12 at home against the Zimbabweans with one game washed out. Zimbabwe's last win in Bangladesh against the hosts had come way back in 2010.

However the visitors' first-ever ODI series win over the Lankans in July last year and the return of experienced wicket-keeper batsman Brendon Taylor and pacer Kyle Jarvis in the side will certainly boost their confidence.

Apart from these two cricketers, the likes of Sikandar Raza, skipper Graeme Cremer and opening batsman Hamilton Masakadza, who has been lethal against the Tigers on most occasions, will likely play crucial roles for the visitors.

Although Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and his troops will be playing at the comfort of their home where they have been all but unbeatable over the last two-and-a-half years, the chilly weather may give them a tough time.

Considering the overhead conditions and the pitch, which is expected to assist the spinners while offering runs for the batsmen, the home side would be hoping to bank on their strengths, but according to skipper Mashrafe a decision on whether to bat or bowl should they win the toss might be dictated by the elements.

With regular opener Imrul Kayes ruled out of the first game due to a thumb injury, wicket-keeper batsman Anamul Haque is all set to partner Tamim Iqbal in the opening stand after having scored heavily in domestic circuit recently.

According to the Tigers' technical director Khaled Mahmud, the team management wants ace all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan to bat at the number three position due to his aggressive style of play, with Mushfiqur Rahim likely to bat at number four and Mahmudullah at the number five position. Sabbir Rahman will play the role of a finisher alongside Nasir Hossain in the lower-middle order.

The team management may opt for three pacers in the eleven in order to strengthen the batting line-up, with left-arm seamer Mustafzur Rahman certain to make a comeback after missing out on the ODI series in South Africa due to an ankle injury while pacer Rubel Hossain is expected to retain his place in the eleven alongside Mashrafe.

But it will be a test of mental strength for the Tigers to stage a dominating start in the post-Hathurusingha era.

“There is always pressure when you are playing for your country. It is a good thing because the best performance comes out in a pressure situation. But I think many of our players have played under more intense pressure. We didn't get what we wanted from our last tour but I'm hopeful we will be able to execute better this time,” Mashrafe told reporters ahead of their training session at the Sher-e-Bangla National stadium yesterday.

“The dressing room is mostly relaxed. We don't have the pressure we felt in the past. I don't want them to be too relaxed because sometimes nervous energy can bring out the best in a player inside the field,” added the skipper.  


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