Bangladesh's cricket has reached a standard where one or two heroic individual performances do not count for much if they do not lead to wins for the team. The tour of New Zealand has been a disappointing one so far as the Tigers were whitewashed after playing cricket that was consistently below par.
Keeping the upcoming ICC World Cup in England this summer in mind, the series in New Zealand was considered the perfect platform for the team management to form the ideal team combination for the mega event.
Among all the negatives -- such as top-order batting failures -- there were a few individual performances that will lend the team management relief. And that it did not come from serial performers like Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad may eventually prove to be a blessing in disguise.
There were three cricketers in particular who the selectors had kept an eye on and had question marks over their place in the eleven before the tour. The players with question marks over their places heading into the New Zealand series were Mohammad Mithun, Sabbir Rahman and Mohammad Saifuddin and they managed, to varying degrees, to show their potential in tough New Zealand conditions.
Middle-order batsman Mithun, who was not originally in consideration for the World Cup squad after initially playing some valuable innings in last year's Asia Cup, continued his fine run in New Zealand.
The right-hander struck consecutive fifties in the first two ODIs against New Zealand and showed a lot of character in tackling pressure situations. Even so, Mithun did make some mistakes because he wasted the platform he created to score big in both the ODIs he played, throwing his wicket away each time. It remains to be seen whether he will learn the lessons.
Arguably skipper Mahsrafe Bin Mortaza's biggest challenge was to justify his pre-tour request to include Sabbir in the touring party, for which the board controversially reduced a six-month disciplinary ban by a month.
The dashing right-hander however did prove his worth by displaying a rare comfort against express fast bowling in testing conditions and followed his 43 in the second ODI by smashing a maiden hundred -- a 110-ball 102 in the third ODI in Dunedin yesterday.
Although his hundred ended up in a losing cause, the way Sabbir paced his innings and handled the likes of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson with sheer class would be something the team management would expect more of from him in the World Cup.
Last but not the least, Saifuddin also remained instrumental with both bat and ball as he struck forties in the first and third ODI.
But bowling is his main function and the right-arm seamer did manage to create the impression of a genuine seam-bowling all-rounder in all three ODIs against the Kiwis, which will certainly create a good balance in the team for the World Cup.