Mehedi Hasan Miraz has only recently become a vital member of Bangladesh's ODI squad, with his off-spin often used to stifle the opposition's rate of scoring in the middle overs and also, at times, with the new ball. The effervescent 21-year-old proved his value in Bangladesh's recent triumph in the Ireland tri-series involving the hosts and West Indies.
Bangladesh's World Cup preparations will get underway in earnest today with a warm-up game at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, and Mehedi will be expected to play a crucial role today and on Tuesday in their second warm-up against India as the Tigers seek a settled eleven to take into their World Cup opener against South Africa on June 2.
"We have around five [seven] days before the main match," Mehedi told reporters during practice at the venue yesterday. "I think the practice matches are very important because if it takes us two matches to get used to conditions here, it will be easier if we can use the practice matches to adapt and adjust."
It may seem strange to many, but Bangladesh should start as favourites against Pakistan, a team they have beaten in all four encounters since the last World Cup in Australia in 2015.
"The World Cup matches will be high-voltage and there will be a lot of pressure. If we can play our best and give our hundred per cent here, then the job will become easier over there [in the World Cup matches]," Mehedi said. "Obviously, we will get a lot of confidence if we can win the match. We will try to put forth our best and we will have to win the match, because then our confidence will be high."
Bangladesh's tri-nation triumph in Ireland is where Mehedi truly proved his worth to the team, even in conditions where spin bowlers are not expected to excel. In three matches played in Dublin, Mehedi bowled 24 overs and conceded just 101 runs on batting friendly wickes, while taking three wickets. His economy rate was the best among Bangladesh's specialist bowlers, and Mehedi said that is the way the team will want him to operate throughout the World Cup.
"I have always said that for spinners here, more than wicket-taking it is about containing runs and supporting the other bowlers. As spinners I think we have to support the pace bowlers. If I can save runs, then maybe wickets will come from the other end or if pressure is created, then there will be chances. That will be my aim, and that is what I have tried to do from the start -- to save runs and give as little away as possible in 10 overs."
Mehedi did not play much of a part in Bangladesh's 2017 Champions Trophy campaign when the Tigers reached their maiden semifinal, bowling just one over in the rained-off encounter against Australia. However, this time around, he will be expected to be a major player in the World Cup campaign, and it will all start with his performance today against Pakistan.