Bangladesh team has just completed the home series of England a few days back. Now the next series is against Zimbabwe next year on February-March 2004. The news so far is that Bangladesh will play two test matches and five One Day Internationals against Zimbabwe within the above time period.
The Bangladesh 'A' team consisting of several of the national team has been selected to go on Pakistan tour. Majority of this Bangladesh 'A' team will return to Bangladesh on half way and join the camp for the upcoming Zimbabwe tour on the last week of December 2003. Then the same number of players will go to Pakistan replacing those players for the Zimbabwe camp.
Bangladesh squad for the Zimbabwe tour will play a few matches in Namibia as practice matches, which seem to have become a trend by the present Bangladesh Cricket Board Officials. The last time when this happened, there was no seriousness going on for the national players. They were left to do all their practices against Namibia. So this is a matter of concern whether things will be changed this time around. Ofcourse, Bangladesh national team at the time had a few practice matches against Namibia whom they had beaten four times out of five. Even the lone losing match meant some sort of a warning sign which we were all willing to forget and forgive in the apprehension of getting our first One Day win against Canada in the World Cup 2003. But since then, things have changed dramatically. We were humiliated at the hands of average thirty year old Canadian team, which resulted in appointing our new coach Dave Whatmore. Bangladesh will possibly play three One Day matches and a longer version match. It is upto our new coach Whatmore to inspire the national team members to come up with a whitewash result in Namibia, just like we have been whitewashed so many times by the other test playing teams.
But that is not all. The real test for the Bangladesh players will come soon after the expected whitewash of Namibia. Bangladesh have never ever beaten Zimbabwe in either One Day Internationals or in Test matches or in the ICC trophy tournaments. But this time the emotions of the Bangladesh fans are high and they want a win in this tour.
The national team went to Zimbabwe the last time two years ago in the year 2001 with the same hope of beating Zimbabwe in one of the five matches (3 ODIs & 2 Tests). But the inexperienced Bangladesh team in terms of Test match Cricket could not even go close to winning. There were many good performances by individual players including some world records, but nothing could stop Zimbabwe from white-washing us on their home soil.
This time the Bangladesh team is much experienced in terms of Test match cricket and the general expectation is to beat Zimbabwe in one of the two test matches.
The Man that the whole country of Bangladesh is depending on to achieve that victory against Zimbabwe disagrees with the emotional fans of Bangladesh. Coach Dave Whatmore said in an interview during the England series with Wisden Cricinfo "A lot of people are looking at the Zimbabwe series in February, and reckon we can win there. I don't agree. I reckon we can win tomorrow, but that's not the right way to go about it. We have to have a very close look at the people who are picked for that touring squad, and accurately and realistically judge: should they be there, or shouldn't they?"
Although now is not the proper time to select players who will be on that Zimbabwe tour with so much time left, but we can speculate as to who should be on the Bangladesh squad to go to Zimbabwe. And we can "have a very close look at the people who are picked for that touring squad, and accurately and realistically judge" their abilities.
First of all, we can start looking at the past performances of players who have been to Zimbabwe and who have played against Zimbabwe earlier.
The list of players who have played against Zimbabwe outside Zimbabwe is very long. But very few players among them have really performed and are still surviving upto now to play for the Bangladesh National team.
Shahriar Hossain has opened for Bangladesh against Zimbabwe in ODIs and scored only 10 runs in his first match. Whereas Habibul Bashar has more or less done well with a 70 run score on that maiden ODI appearance of the two teams staged in Kenya. Mohammad Rafique, Hasibul Hussain and Khaled Mashud also played in that match. But the point was that Zimbabwe had scored over 300 runs in their allotted fifty overs whereas Bangladesh could reach to only 257 for ten wickets. Although 257 at the time was our highest One Day International total, but it was a close match that we lost.
In the next match of the same tournament, our bowlers had done way better in getting Zimbabwe batsman all out for 284 runs in 50 overs, but the batsman had failed dramatically to even go to a total of 100 runs while chasing 284.
The next time when these two teams met each other in One Day Internationals were on the home soil of the Bangladeshis and this time too, Zimbabwe had managed to get to a total of more than 300, again. And Bangladesh were bundled out for a meagure 184. The players of the Bangladesh team were Shahriar Hossain, Mehrab Hossain, Khaled Mahmud, Mohammad Rafique, Naimur Rahman and Hasibul Hussain. Among them, only Mehrab Hossain, who is not even in the contest for playing for Bangladesh team anymore, scored his maiden One Day fifty. And the other notable contributions of 20 or above runs came from the all rounders Khaled Mahmud and Naimur Rahman.
The next match of the series was again a very competitive match where Bangladesh had managed to scare Zimbbabwean captain Alistair Campbell in a very close finish. But it was the same old loss for Bangladesh even after a record opening partnership of 170 runs between Shahriar Hossain and Mehrab Hossain. Shahriar Hossain scored his second One Day fifty, his first and last One Day fifty against a test playing nation. Mehrab Hossain scored the main ODI century for Bangladesh. The other players of this match were Khaled Mashud, Hasibul Hussain and Khaled Mahmud.
All those matches mentioned above were played outside Zimbabwe on some flat batting tracks. After getting test status, Bangladesh was first invited to Zimbabwe to play in a test and a one day series.
In Zimbabwe, the Bangladesh players as well as the fans came to realize that batting on flat tracks and batting on green wickets is not the same. Bangladesh scored a poltry 151 for 8 and 103 all out in Harare in the first two 50 over matches. Players like Javed Omar, Habibul Bashar - they all failed in the top order in the first match. The notable performances came from Naimur Rahman (19 off 40 balls), Mushfiqur Rahman (31 off 59 balls), Mohammad Rafique (22 off 25 balls) and Mohammad Sharif (13 off 22 balls). The bowlers Monjurul Islam, Mohammad Sharif, Mushfiqur Rahman and Mohammad Rafique had all economical figures, but they had failed to stop Zimbabwe from reaching their target again. In the second match, the same bowlers bowled very well to restrict the Zimbabwe batsman to only 230 runs in 50 overs, but the batsman had failed miserably with the top scorer being Javed Omar Belim for an unbeaten 33 in 86 balls. Captain Naimur Rahman then scored a quick fire 25 off 21 balls to help Bangladesh get past the 100 run mark.
Then the 3rd and final match of the One Day series saw an opposite turn-around on a batting paradise wicket when Zimbabwe scored over 300 runs (again) in 50 overs, and again Bangladesh managed to lose the match in the first innings and scored 272 for 8, the highest total for Bangladesh in One Day Internationals. The players involved in this match were Javed Omar (69 off 82 balls), Mehrab Hossain (13 off 19 balls), Mohammad Ashraful (9 off 8 balls and 1 wicket), Habibul Bashar (74 off 91 balls), Naimur Rahman (25 off 17 balls), Mohammad Rafique, Khaled Mashud, Mushfiqur Rahman (17 off 11 balls) and Mohammad Sharif.
Then the Zimbabwe team had come to Bangladesh and white-washed the Bangladesh team in a 3 match One Day series. The notable performers in this series were Habibul Bashar (44 off 91 balls), Khaled Mashud (40 off 78 balls), Mashrafee Bin Murtoza(2 wickets), Mohammad Rafique (1 wicket) in the first match (BD total 156 all out batting first); Javed Omar (27 off 28 balls), Habibul Bashar (66 off 95 balls), Sanwar Hossain (52 off 88 balls), Khaled Mahmud (50 off 42 balls) in the second match (Zim total 309 and BD total 267); Javed Omar (54 off 77 balls), Al Shahriar (59 off 97 balls) in the third and final match (BD total 215).
So from the past performances of the Bangladesh national players, if only the experienced successful players in Zimbabwe are to be chosen, then the following players should be considered first for the One Day Internationals: batsman Javed Omar Belim, Mehrab Hossain, Shahriar Hossain, Habibul Bashar, Naimur Rahman, bowlers Monjurul Islam, Mohammad Rafique, Mohammad Sharif, Mashrafee Bin Murtoza all rounders Mushfiqur Rahman, Khaled Mahmud and wicket keeper Khaled Mashud.
But There are a few blunders. Mashrafee Bin Murtoza, the best fast bowler of Bangladesh is injured now, as well as experienced Mohammad Sharif. Monjurul Islam is not in the selectors' minds anymore. So the only left-overs are Mushfiqur Rahman and Khaled Mahmud the all-rounders. Khaled Mahmud did not go to Zimbabwe with the Bangladesh team and Mushfiqur Rahman was dropped from the last Zimbabwe tour for not showing good all round performance. This time the news is that Khaled Mahmud might be losing his captancy job, but he will still go to Zimbabwe as a player. And Mushfiqur Rahman is the find of the England series. Tapash Baisya will join them in the pace department, and it will be interesting to see who else will be playing in the pace department.
Batsman Al Shahriar and Sanwar Hossain are the worst One Day players that we have, and they are unlikely to tour Zimbabwe. Mohammad Ashraful is a good player, but his records is not good against Zimbabwe, the weakest test playing country besides us. Javed Omar Belim is not considered as a one day player any more. However, when we will look at his test performance in Zimbabwe, we will see that his place for opening in the tests is a certainty. Habibul Bashar is the other certain batsman who will be touring Zimbabwe. Naimur Rahman has not been selected for Bangladesh national team for quite some time and it is unlikely that we will see him in the national fold sometime soon. Mehrab Hossai is also another player who seem unlikely to tour Zimbabwe, since he is not even in the BD 'A' squad. Shahriar Hossain has a chance to come back in the Zimbabwe tour, but it all depends on how he performs in the Pakistan tour for Bangladesh 'A'. So what we're left with in the batting department are all new players comprising of Hannan Sarkar the opener, Rajin Saleh, Alok Kapali. Mushfiqur Rahman has batted in the middle order in the recently concluded one day series and it will be interesting to see how he performs on an away mission on green wickets.
The place of Khaled Mashud is also certain, as is the most experienced spinner Mohammad Rafique. The last time Naimur Rahman was chosen the second, or sometimes the main spinner in the side. But he was also the captain of the side. This time there is a hole in the captain's department as well as in the spinner's department, as it is not certain yet as to who will go to Zimbabwe as the captain of the Bangladesh team. Also, will Monjurul Islam Rana go to Zimbabwe as the second spinner after some good performances during the England one day series? Will Enamul Haque Junior go to Zimbabwe as the second specialst spinner after Rafique? It all seems unlikely that a second spinner will go to Zimbabwe in the test matches, but there is the possibility that Monjurul Islam Rana could go as the second spinner, but he might not hold a certain position among the final eleven in all the ODI matches.
So far, we have been discussing about the one day cricket matches played between these two teams, and now let us focus our attention to the test team. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe have played four test matches in total and half of them at home. Let us look at the test matches held in Zimbabwe rather than those of Bangladesh because of the obvious surrounding different conditions of the two countries.
When Bangladesh played against Zimbabwe the first time in test cricket, Bangladesh played only one test before those matches in the inaugural test match against India. But this time, Bangladesh are now experienced of playing more than twenty five tests. So obviously there should be some vast improvements in the test performance. The last time although Bangladesh scored in the region of 250s most of the time, still Zimbabwe had managed to score even better and managed to win by a margin of an innings and 32 runs and by 8 wickets.
The players who were involved in those two test matches are - Javed Omar, Mehrab Hossain, Al Shahriar, Habibul Bashar, Naimur Rahman, Khaled Mashud, Mushfiqur Rahman, Hasibul Hussain, Mohammad Sharif and Monjurul Islam. Among them, only Javed Omar and Habibul Bashar were consistent performers in the test series.
Mehrab Hossain, Al Shahriar, Naimur Rahman, MOhammad Sharif and Monjurul Islam are out of the Bangladesh test team. Similarly to the one day series, Mushfiqur Rahman is the new find of the England series. What it all means is that only four players in total (Javed Omar, Habibul Bashar, Khaled Mashud and Mushfiqur Rahman) who went to Zimbabwe last time, are the lone contenders to go to Zimbabwe for certain. The new players to play in the test series against Zimbabwe will be Hannan Sarkar, Rajin Saleh, Alok Kapali, and Tapash Baisya. Mohammad Rafique is an experienced player who have played against Zimbabwe, but those were all in One Day International matches. Mohammad Ashraful and Mashrafee Bin Murtoza are two additional players who played against Zimbabwe at home, but for poor performance of Ashraful in the last series and for being injured, Mashrafee Bin Murtoza are not among the probable's list to tour Zimbabwe to play in the test series.
However, things might change within a few days' time and nobody can suspect of what is going to happen in the future. So far, the current possible Bangladesh squad to tour Zimbabwe seem to be a team of young and old, inexperienced and experienced. Whatever is the final team combination, the old and experienced players must perform in the Zimbabwe tour to guide the youngsters as well as to push for that maiden test victory. It is the combination of brilliant performances of the young and old together that will bring success to the Bangladesh team.