When I first travelled to New Delhi to watch Australia play cricket in 2013, just leaving my hotel to confront the onslaught of this relentless, illogical city felt like a small victory.
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Bangladesh’s progress in one day cricket has been slowly rising following an over-achieving campaign in the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.
Historic ODI series wins at home against Pakistan, a full strength India and Faf Du Plessis’s Proteas showed that knocking out the Poms in Adelaide was no fluke.
Former Bangladesh and current Sri Lanka coach Chandika Hathurusingha had instilled belief into the Bangladesh youngsters to play their game with freedom and the likes of Soumya Sarkar and Mustafizur Rahman blossomed under him.
Their first true test in one day cricket was in December 2016 against Kane Williamson’s Blackcaps.
Despite losing 3-0, they had put New Zealand under pressure in stages of each of the three ODIs – however they had failed to sustain it for long periods and took their foot off the pedal.
The series loss had deemed for a bright future as Bangladesh continued their rise in international cricket by scraping their way into the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy (albeit with a bit of luck in English weather).
However their true test was in the 2018 ACC Asia Cup when star batsman Tamim Iqbal broke his wrist in the opening match against Sri Lanka and Shakib Al Hasan’s finger injury ruled him out of the Asia Cup just before their virtual semi-final against rivals Pakistan.
The Asia Cup was a platform for youngsters to step up in the absence of Bangladesh’s two finest cricketers and Liton Das and Mohammad Mithun delivered with the bat in crunch games.
Soumya Sarkar has seemed to have found his 2015 aggressive mojo with two match-winning innings late in 2018.
The Tigers travel down under once again in New Zealand for three tests and three one-dayers with the first one-dayer starting on February 13 in Napier.
The series is set to be a close one as the World Cup approaches and both sides will be trying to strengthen their final squads for the big tournament in England.
New Zealand conditions are the closest to what the Tigers will encounter in England and should they do well it will bode well for confidence, especially for the youngsters.
The flat tracks will encourage strokeplay, favouring Das and Sarkar alongside Tamim at the top of the order to take it to the Blackcaps attack most likely consisting of Southee, Boult, Ferguson and Henry.
The middle order will be filled with experienced heads of Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib and Mahmudullah Riyad with the possibility of Mohammad Mithun to bat at 5 or 6 if the Napier pitch is slow.
Mehedi Hasan Miraz and Mohammad Saifuddin will play the bowling all-rounder roles and captain Mashrafe Mortaza and seamers Rubel Hossain and Mustafizur Rahman rounding up the 11.
The seam attack firing is key for Bangladesh. Bar the Champions Trophy, the seam attack for Bangladesh has done well in all conditions from the 2015 World Cup till now and their abilities to take wickets with Mashrafe’s accuracy, Mustafizur’s off cutters and yorkers and Rubel’s pace has been instrumental to Bangladesh victories.
Even if they lose this series, if they identify their mistakes and ensure they don’t repeat them in the World Cup will be crucial if they want to make the semi-finals.
This squad is good enough to take on anyone in ODI cricket in terms of skill, but are they good enough to mentally turn up in crunch games?
That’s why this series against New Zealand is crucial. Get ready cricket fans, this series is set to be a cracker.
New Zealand would be dumb to underestimate Bangladesh and they won’t considering Bangladesh have beaten them in the last two occasions in a tri-series match in Ireland and the Champions Trophy game in Wales.
My predicted Bangladesh XI for first ODI
Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Mehedi Hasan, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mashrafe Mortaza (captain), Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain
My predicted New Zealand XI for first ODI (squad hasn’t been named yet)
Henry Nicholls, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson (captain), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Todd Astle, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson/Matt Henry