West Indies in Bangladesh 2012-13 November 12, 2012

Challenges on and off field for Bangladesh as Tests return

The Tests against West Indies could be the defining series for Bangladesh in what has till now been an up and down year for the team

In terms of performance and achievement, the Asia Cup was a watershed moment in Bangladesh cricket. The results since, in the limited opportunities Bangladesh have had, have not quite matched up. In the upcoming Test series against West Indies, they will have to play more than just the four days of consistent cricket to have shown real progress.

It is the two sides' second meeting in two years, giving the home side a chance to redeem the loss in the Test series last year. But it has been such a mixed bag of a year for Bangladesh that very little in terms of results would be the rational expectation.

The team has had their share of problems. Two coaches have quit this year; though neither of Stuart Law and Richard Pybus left due to the team's performance, their sudden exits have left the team without direction and proper planning for even the near future. Another among their issues is the long gap between Tests. In general, there has been a lack of cricket against top teams, a point that was bemoaned at the end of the Asia Cup. The only competitive international cricket they played between the Asia Cup and this West Indies series were the two matches at the World Twenty20, and they showed very little progress in that format too.

Yet, that Asia Cup still offers captain Mushfiqur Rahim a source of inspiration ahead of this series. When asked if he'd be happy with a draw or would target a win, he said he just wanted the team to show what they had in the Asia Cup. "It is not about a win or a draw. Our aim is to play well consistently, like we did in the Asia Cup," Mushfiqur said. "At that time our plan was to maintain consistency, no matter how big the opposition. We decided we wouldn't look at the result.

"This is why we enjoyed success and won two matches. We have the same plan this time. We will go session-by-session, without bothering about opponents. We want to win every session and then the result will take care of itself."

Though it is still not a line-up that is well settled, Mushfiqur also sounded confident about the team's batting: "All of our top seven batsmen have the ability to play big innings. They did it in the past, playing well against some strong bowling line-ups. So everybody is confident.

"We have world-class batsmen in Tamim [Iqbal] and Shakib [Al Hasan]. If they can score some runs, and the others chip-in with them, hopefully we will get a good total."

Tamim and Shakib may be at the forefront, but the likes of Shahriar Nafees, Naeem Islam, Mahmudullah and Nasir Hossain have to make meaningful runs, even if for only themselves, to keep their places in the team.

The bowling, too, will be in the spotlight. Shakib is set to lead another young attack with Rubel Hossain coming back from a long injury lay-off, Shahadat Hossain - who has the monkey of the Asia Cup final on his back - and a second spinner who will be playing to save his place in the team.

Off-field issues could also distract the team: the current board's tenure ends just after this Test series, so the air in Mirpur is thick with election fervour and, as is the norm in Bangladesh, the players will feel the heat or the odd cold shoulder, depending on who's in power. But, as Mushfiqur said earlier this year, the team has to be thick-skinned enough to cope with external pressures as it is a part of the team's culture.

This series could define how 2012 would be remembered for Bangladesh and, with so much going on on and off the field, it will be a sterling test of the team's mettle.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Bangladesh