Road to T20 World Cup starts in the Caribbean
The horrific memories of the 2021 T20 World Cup must still be fresh in the Bangladesh cricketers' minds. In that edition, the Tigers' tongues wagged more than their willows bashed.
A little over three months' time is left for the next edition of the T20 World Cup, scheduled to be held in Australia in October-November. But for the Tigers, the road to the land Down Under starts tonight, in the Caribbean, when they face hosts West Indies in the first of three-match T20I series at the Windsor Park in Dominica.
The upcoming T20I series against the Windies is being considered the first step in shaping up the squad for the next T20 World Cup in order to avoid mishaps like in the preceding edition of the tournament.
The truth is that like in the case of Tests, Bangladesh have not yet been able to settle into a set style of play and do not have an ironed-out team combination in T20Is.
Even the Tigers' team management acknowledged the fact that it needs to keep one eye on the World Cup from now on every time they go out on the field to play the shortest format. And the promising thing for Bangladesh is that Mahmudullah Riyad's troops are braced for plenty of T20 action before they hop on the Australia-bound flight.
The lack of opportunity to aptly prepare for the tournament was not an issue even ahead of the last edition of the tournament. Despite that, Bangladesh succumbed to six defeats in eight encounters, including a humiliating loss in the opener to Scotland, in the UAE and Oman in the 2021 T20 World Cup.
That was because of the false sense of achievement garnered from sealing historic series wins over Australia and New Zealand at favourable home conditions just months before the previous World Cup. But no such opportunities will be there for Bangladesh this time around as only three of the minimum 18 T20Is that the Tigers are set to play leading up to the next T20 extravaganza will be played on home soil, which essentially takes away the Tigers' ability to extract results by exploiting home conditions.
This, however, should work as a blessing in disguise for Bangladesh as it would give them the opportunity to assess their abilities in testing foreign conditions and go into the World Cup with a realistic sense of their capabilities and limitations.
But the concerns for the Tigers still outweigh their potential chance for better preparation. The truth is that like in the case of Tests, Bangladesh have not yet been able to settle into a set style of play and do not have an ironed-out team combination in T20Is. The challenge starting from the Windies T20Is will be to at least start addressing the bugs in the system and slowly instilling in the troops the brand of cricket that they would like to play in the upcoming World Cup.
The team management would need to fix roles for the players and have like-for-like backups in mind in case someone fails to fulfil their roles, something that the Tigers have failed to do over the years as an apparent lack of depth in the pipeline has always seen the team management pick from a handful of the available choices.
With the Windies T20Is, Bangladesh will return to the format after almost four months. And contrary to what Mahmudullah had said before leaving the country for the Caribbean, Bangladesh do not have a balanced squad in the T20 format and that can be ascertained from the fact that the Tigers have lost nine of their last 10 T20Is.
But Bangladesh can take inspiration from their last tour of the Caribbean in 2018 when they bounced back from a humiliating 2-0 Test series defeat to win the following T20I and ODI series by the same 2-1 margin. The scenario this time around is quite similar as the Tigers go into this T20I series on the back of yet another embarrassing Test series whitewash.
Even if the Tigers find a way to repeat the feats of 2018, the challenge this time will be much bigger. It will be to sustain that momentum and keep improving on their approach to the format so that they can go to Australia for the World Cup with a refined squad who are aware of their capabilities and limitations instead of being misled by a false sense of achievement.