If I were to show you a photograph of Shakib al Hasan, would you know who he was?
Wednesday, 1 September will see New Zealand lock horns with Bangladesh in the first of a five-match T20 series.
Mohammad Mahmudullah (captain), Nasum Ahmed, Taskin Ahmed, Liton Das (wicketkeeper), Mahedi Hasan, Nurul Hasan (wicketkeeper), Shakib Al Hasan, Afif Hossain, Mosaddek Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Shamim Hossain, Aminul Islam, Shoriful Islam, Taijul Islam, Mohammad Naim, Mushfiqur Rahim (wicketkeeper), Mustafizur Rahman, Mohammad Saifuddin and Soumya Sarkar.
Tom Latham (captain, wicketkeeper), Finn Allen, Hamish Bennett, Tom Blundell (wicketkeeper), Doug Bracewell, Colin de Grandhomme, Jacob Duffy, Matt Henry, Scott Kuggeleijn, Cole McConchie, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Rachin Ravindra, Ben Sears, Blair Tickner and Will Young.
With many of New Zealand’s first-choice players rested for this tour, Bangladesh start as heavy favourites with only Tamim Iqbal absent from the side due to injury. But New Zealand have a few exciting players, even with Finn Allen likely to miss the majority of the series after testing positive to COVID-19.
These are my key players for both sides of the series.
Skipper for this series, Latham will be playing his first international T20 match since November 2017 and his first T20 game since January 2019. But the wickets in Dhaka suit Latham’s style of play. Having played over 170 combined international games for the Black Caps, Latham brings plenty of experience in an inexperienced squad. Pitches in Dhaka require a degree of Test match-style batting, and that will be Latham’s role with the bat. If Latham gets the Black Caps up and running with the bat, it will go a long way towards New Zealand winning against Bangladesh.
Just like Latham, Nicholls will need to use his Test match batting temperament to ensure the Black Caps middle order is not exposed to the Bangladesh spinners too early in the innings. One of the senior players on the tour, Nicholls will have to lead with the bat to give New Zealand their best chance of winning a few games and possibly the series. With a Test century in the UAE to his name, Nicholls has it in him to play the spinners well on slower decks compared to the faster tracks in New Zealand.
With Mitch Santner, Todd Astle and Ish Sodhi missing the T20 series against Bangladesh, Ajaz Patel has a great chance to put his hand up to become a permanent member in New Zealand’s white-ball squad. He is a very good spinner and can cause Bangladesh’s batsmen trouble with his stump-to-stump bowling. If Bangladesh can nullify Ajaz Patel, they will score more than 145 with the bat.
Shakib Al Hasan
Does the man need any introduction in this day and age? I have said it many times over: Shakib is the best left-arm finger spinner in T20 cricket. With success all over the globe in T20 competitions, Shakib brings a wealth of experience to every T20 team. All New Zealand can do is similar to most NRL players when facing Tom Trbojevic: pray and hope that he has an off day. If Shakib is on song with bat and ball, there is a high chance of a Banglawash.
Mushfiqur Rahim is back, and in these conditions he is a big plus for Bangladesh. The best player of spin in Bangladesh who rotates the strike well, Mushfiqur is the big fish in the Bangladesh T20 line-up on slower surfaces. Mushfiqur will look to bat long throughout the innings, playing risk-free cricket before teeing off at the death.
The Fizz is reaping the rewards of the grind he has done with bowling coach Ottis Gibson to get back to his pre-2017 form. He was almost unplayable against Australia. However, New Zealand will be better prepared against him for this series. But Mustafizur has a five-wicket haul against New Zealand in T20 cricket and will be a deadly bowler in Dhaka. The Black Caps cannot allow Mustafizur to settle and take calculated risks against him to put Bangladesh on the back foot.
Bangladesh vs New Zealand is a series I always look forward to. There have been plenty of bilateral series between the two sides since 2010. Hamish Bennett is the lone survivor from the Black Caps squad who was part of the New Zealand team that lost 4-0 against Bangladesh in 2010. With a weakened New Zealand squad touring Bangladesh, the Tigers will be eyeing their first T20 series victory against New Zealand.
While New Zealand will pose a bigger threat than the Australian squad that toured a few weeks ago, Bangladesh should end up winning this series. With Liton Das and Mushfiqur Rahim back for Bangladesh, the home side should be posting 140-plus with the bat and winning some games quite comfortably.
My series scoreline prediction? Bangladesh to win 4-1.