Slow pitches ill-suited to T20 cricket have been a feature of this year's Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), with pitches that aid strokeplay becoming the exception rather than the norm so far in the sixth edition. With all of the national players who will leave for New Zealand next month for a full tour shortly after the BPL concludes, the pitches present a bigger concern beyond diminishing the T20 spectacle.
Bangladesh head coach Steve Rhodes agreed that the BPL was not ideal preparation for the games in New Zealand, which will likely be played on bouncier wickets that contain more grass than the barren patches seen over the last two weeks in Dhaka and Sylhet.
“Let's keep that quiet from the New Zealanders that we've been playing on these wickets,” he half-joked during a press conference at the Sylhet International Stadium yesterday. “It's far from ideal preparation, the way that we go straight from the BPL into ODIs in New Zealand. But what can we do about it; this is a fantastic tournament, it needed fitting in and it was the only slot available.”
The national coach has been present in town for the Sylhet leg of the tournament and was following the tournament before that in Dhaka. The next four months are set to be some of the most crucial for Bangladesh as they seek to maintain their recent good form in ODIs through a challenging tour of New Zealand in February-March, an Ireland tri-series in May before the ultimate challenge -- the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales from May 31 to July 14.
“It probably doesn't test the bowlers enough, these conditions. It certainly tests the batsmen. I've got no problems with the groundsmen in Bangladesh; they're trying their best to produce the best possible wickets for T20 cricket,” Rhodes added. “They've played a lot of cricket in Sylhet, Mirpur and Chittagong. So we're at the stage of the season when the actual squares are getting beaten up quite bad. Ideally, leaving a little bit more grass on the wicket would certainly help. The groundsmen did a fine job in the last game played here [Rangpur Riders vs Sylhet Sixers on Monday] because the wicket came on a little bit more and you saw with a bit more grass and if you wet the wicket a little bit and rolled it in, suddenly we were getting some decent scores.”
The BPL governing council members have been at pains to assert that the wickets are good enough, but in 19 matches so far, there have been sub-120 scores on eight occasions, four of which were below 100.
“We know that the preparation is going to be very rushed for the ODIs against New Zealand but we'll put up with that and we'll give it our best shot and try and win the games that are put in front of us,” Rhodes said.
It of course would not take the coach or local reporters to let the Kiwis know of the slow and low BPL wickets in the age of satellite television. Even if the world's third-ranked ODI team missed the BPL, they would remember Bangladesh's struggles on true wickets down under during the ODI series in 2016-17, especially in the bowling department. That, and the BPL wickets -- by the coach's own admission -- would be encouragement enough for the Kiwis in February.