With their most recent outing being the disastrous tour of South Africa in September-October 2017, when they handsomely lost all seven matches across formats, there will be more than a few flaws to correct for the home team when they kick off their tri-series campaign today by taking on Zimbabwe in the opener at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur from 12:00pm today. The following are a few things to watch out for during the series.
Can Fizz lead the pacers out of the doldrums?
The Bangladesh team conceded 1,004 runs in three ODIs in South Africa while taking just 12 wickets -- an average of 84 runs per wicket at just over seven runs an over. Needless to say, a repeat of such toothless and profligate bowling will not bode well for Bangladesh. To that end the coaching staff and technical director have been working hard with the bowlers in the training camp that began on December 27.
They have one big hope in the returning Mustafizur Rahman, who was ruled out on the eve of the South Africa ODI series with a twisted ankle. That is not to say that Mustafizur's presence would have made a big difference in South Africa as he averages a none-too-impressive 30. 55 in away conditions, but the numbers strongly indicate that his presence at home is a substantial one.
Back in 2015, he was the spark that ignited Bangladesh's ODI rise and his home record is a fantastic 26 wickets from nine matches at an astonishing average of 12. 34. His brand of beguiling cutters are especially suited to the grip offered by the Mirpur wicket, and how he starts today will be integral to Bangladesh's search for their first triangular trophy.
Will the number three puzzle finally be solved?
Since the start of 2015, there have been seven batsmen tried at the pivotal number three position in ODIs and the best average among them was the discarded Soumya Sarkar and vice-captain Shakib Al Hasan's 29, the latter playing just one match in the position in the first ODI against South Africa in Kimberley last year. Technical director Khaled Mahmud yesterday informed that Shakib will be the one tried in that spot today and, judging by his statement that the team management wants a regular number three, for the rest of this series.
Shakib is as good a choice as any, given his ability to read the game and take it by the scruff of the neck. With a rich 2017 with the bat, Shakib is well placed to solve the puzzle for the time being, but it will be important for him to hit the ground running today.
Will Riyad get the time his talent warrants?
Mahmudullah Riyad is the man for every position. He has batted as low as number eight in the order and as high as number three, where he hit his two successive World Cup tons in the 2015 event in Australia-New Zealand. In South Africa, he batted at number five in the first match, but was demoted to number six for the next two. Mahmud has recently said that the batsman has been underutilised lower down the order and said that he will likely bat at number five today. Like Shakib, if Mahmudullah can make this spot his own it will make for a more stable batting lineup.
Can Anamul step up?
Having hit a rich vein of form in domestic cricket, Anamul Haque has been recalled to the national squad at what could be the perfect time for the right-handed opener to make a comeback. Soumya Sarkar seems to have been deemed a failed experiment for the time being, and with Imrul Kayes yet to recover from a thumb injury, Anamul will now open with Tamim Iqbal. With the two left-handed openers named above not really making the number two position their own despite repeated chances, a left-right opening partnership with Tamim-Anamul may not be the worst thing.