Will the Mirpur-Bangladesh romance continue?
The three-match ODI series against New Zealand in Mirpur provided Bangladesh the final opportunity to test a few cricketers and also gain rhythm as a unit before the ICC ODI World Cup in India next month.
In a bid to fix the existing areas of concern ahead of the World Cup, Bangladesh team management rested a total of six regular starters, including skipper Shakib Al Hasan, for the series.
However, two experienced campaigners returned to the national fold. Tamim Iqbal played his first game in Bangladesh colors in the first ODI yesterday since quitting international cricket and then relinquishing ODI captaincy in July-August while Mahmudullah Riyad returned following a five-month gap.
While it would have been ideal to play a series just days before the World Cup on a true sporting surface, as it is expected to be in the mega event next month, it seems that the think tank had something else in mind.
Bangladesh, however, did seem to be on top before the game yesterday was eventually washed out. The ploy of taking the field with just three specialist bowlers – pacers Mustafizur Rahman and Tanzim Hasan Sakib and left-arm spinner Nasum Ahmed – worked well as the visitors were struggling on 136 for five in 33.4 overs after stand-in skipper Liton Das elected to bowl on a typically slow and low Mirpur surface.
Mustafizur was the most successful bowler, picking up three wickets, while Nasum made life difficult for the Kiwi batters with some vicious turn and bounce to scalp two wickets in quick time.
Even though the hosts were able to dominate the New Zealand batters unfamiliar with such conditions, questions remained about whether the team management was once again focusing on getting the result, trying to gain a false sense of confidence -- something that had horribly backfired on the Tigers during the T20 World Cup in 2021.
Bangladesh's stand-in skipper Liton had mentioned that they were unable to practice ahead of the series due to rain. That meant any last-minute preparation for the Bangladesh batters ahead of the World Cup would have to come from this series. But unfortunately, the way the pitch behaved in the rain-interrupted game yesterday, it did not seem any different than what was on offer two years ago as batters could not aid from it.
It is not that sporting pitches in Mirpur have never been prepared, although the current weather conditions might have posed a challenge in this regard this time around.
With two matches still to go, it will be interesting to see whether the hosts opt for the same ploy or try to think beyond just getting stat-buffing wins and provide an apt opportunity for the players to prepare in conditions that might actually help them in the World Cup.