It is expected to be the start of a new era for Bangladesh as they look to take their game forward under the guidance of new coach Steve Rhodes. It will also be an acid test for skipper Shakib Al Hasan, who will be leading the team in a full-scale series for the first time since his injury that ruled him out of the Sri Lanka series. The road ahead isn’t going to be a smooth sail with several challenges lying ahead.
Adapting to the methods of their new coach Steve Rhodes
Newly-appointed English coach Steve Rhodes will take this series as a learning curve, as far as judging the potential of his personnel is concerned – a position he is expected to hold for the next two years. Since the unexpected departure of Chandika Hathurusingha, Bangladesh Cricket Board had left no stone unturned to find a suitable replacement of the Sri Lankan, who is considered to be the most successful foreign coach in their history.
There were questions asked of Hathurusingha then with his style, considered as imposing. However, he managed to create an atmosphere in the dressing room where senior players did not receive any extra benefits, and only performers would be rewarded. And this system was put in place during his first overseas assignment, which coincidentally like Rhodes’s, was in the Caribbean.
Rhodes’s vast experience at the county level and with England Lions and age-group cricketers, holds him in good stead to sketch out a solid roadmap for Bangladesh. It will also be important to see how Rhodes is received by the players in the dressing room, in the aftermath of the turmoil that had emerged in the final days of Hathurusingha’s regime. Bangladesh’s history also suggests that few of their past coaches have suffered due to their growing bias for a certain set of players, and Rhodes will do well to ward off such complaints. The Englishman will need to make sure that no cricketer is labelled as a certain-format player, like it has happened in the past without providing ample opportunities.
It’d be ideal if Rhodes creates an atmosphere that stands the test of time, and is not a knee-jerk development that fizzles out
To prove that their present standing is not built merely on home performances
According to Test skipper Shakib, Bangladesh’s biggest cricketing achievement so far is their eighth position in the Test rankings and that in itself proves that they are on the right track. This will be the first time that Bangladesh will take on a team with a ranking higher than their opponents, and thus will need to justify that the progress isn’t a flash in the pan.
Bangladesh have often been pointed out as a commendable force at home while being equally disappointing abroad (precisely outside Asia). A major reason for it being their batsmen’s failure to come up with the requisite skills and temperament required to find success on grassy and bouncy wickets. Their pacers too have exhibited time and again their lack of ability to pursue the right lengths in helpful conditions.
Bangladesh will look to exploit the Windies weakness of handling spin but the challenge for their spinners would be to come quickly out of the white-ball mode and start tossing the ball up.
Shakib’s captaincy under the scanner?
It is interesting to note that Bangladesh’s most established all-rounder is yet to emerge as the standout skipper of the side. That, after leading the side for the first time on a West Indies tour nine years ago when Mashrafe Mortaza was out with an injury. Although Shakib is set to begin his second stint as a full-time skipper, questions have been raised aplenty for his inability to keep the players motivated during the series loss to Afghanistan. It had also been recently discussed in a BCB board meeting to promote Mahmudullah to the skipper’s position in the shortest format, given the energy he brings to the role.
Also, Shakib’s Test sabbatical had not gone down too well with a few BCB officials and they believe that the skipper should be with the team at all times, barring unavoidable circumstances like injury. The all-rounder had requested for rest and joined the squad late in India having cited fatigue as a reason from playing in the IPL. He also did not take part in the preparatory camp for the West Indies tour as he chose to celebrate Eid with his family in America. As a result, Rhodes began his stint in Bangladesh without the skipper and could start working with him only after he joined the team in New York.
The other challenge that lies ahead for the 31-year-old is the nine-month long gap he’s had in Tests. Having first taken a six-month sabbatical from the longer format citing exhaustion, Shakib went on to miss the two-match Test series against Sri Lanka due to an injury. He’ll have to overcome this hiatus and hit the road running in what is expected to be an arduous West Indies tour.
The ‘Stuart Law’ factor and a rejuvenated Windies Test squad
West Indies will have an edge over their counterparts as their head coach Stuart Law has a fair idea about the Bangladeshi dressing room having spent a lot of time as the coach across two franchises in the Bangladesh Premier League.
The Windies Test squad looked to be settled and their performance against Sri Lanka in the just-concluded Test series indicates they are going from strength to strength and though they lost the last Test that forced them to settle for a draw, their overall performances have been pleasing.
Bangladesh will start their campaign with a two-match Test series beginning in Antigua from June 4, followed by the second and final Test in Jamaica from July 12. They will also play a three-match ODI series and a three-match T20I series.
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