Walking through the tunnel of the Sylhet International Stadium and out onto the field, regular shouts of 'ball! ball!' could be heard during Bangladesh's practice session at noon yesterday. Soumya Sarkar, who hit five sixes in the third ODI against West Indies on Friday, was sending balls long and high from the nets and volunteers, media personnel and other players were doing their best to stay out of the way of impact. Impact cricket was the need of the hour as today Bangladesh will take on West Indies in the first of three T20Is.
Six-hitting was very much on the training agenda as there is expected to be plenty of maximums from West Indies, who will be led by Carlos Brathwaite, the man who hit four sixes off England's Ben Stokes in the last over of the World Twenty20 in 2016 to clinch the title.
“When I came to this job and I looked at T20, I looked at some of the power hitting and I saw the West Indies as a great example of some very strong guys who power hit, mishit sixes,” said Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes at the pre-match press conference yesterday. “I felt that that was something that we could work on. They surprised me again, Bangladesh, because they hit some good sixes. We did a bit of range hitting today [Monday] and they could hit long balls. I think that's an area that's definitely getting better but we always want to improve even more.”
The other area the coach earmarked for improvement was fielding. A major reason for Bangladesh losing their only match of West Indies' tour of the country -- the second ODI in Dhaka on December 11 -- so far were two dropped catches at the death and some fielding lapses. There were also numerous dropped chances in the two-Test series which Bangladesh won 2-0.
“We've worked hard on the fielding. On our day we can field extremely well. We want to try and get a bit more consistency in our fielding. Those are two key areas,” Rhodes continued. Things like the Bangladesh Premier League is really good for them because it gives them a great opportunity to showcase their skills. Some of the variations Saifuddin and Abu Hider can bowl, as well as the big boys -- they know what to do and they know how to play T20.”
While the Tests and ODIs against West Indies have been relatively simple for the hosts, the coach thought that the challenge is going to be much tougher in the tourists' favoured format.
“They're ranked above us and are world champions. We surprised them in Florida and surprised ourselves as well,” he said of Bangladesh's away T20I series win in July against the same opposition. “We desperately want to do it [win the series] and it's going to be a lot tougher than the other two series because this is the format West Indies excel at. We'll give our best and hopefully we'll be smiling at the end of it.”