Bangladesh face hurdle of resurgent West Indies
Ahead of the fourth ODI against West Indies, Bangladesh find themselves in a rare position that is going to test the team's character. Never before have they had to face the dual task of stretching themselves in search of a series win while also fending off a dangerous challenger who seems to have found the right gear.
Two years ago, against New Zealand, Bangladesh carried the momentum with them all the way through to win 4-0. But in this series, after winning the first two matches comfortably in Khulna, Bangladesh lost the third, allowing West Indies a foot in the door. It was a similar scenario in the Dhaka Test in which Bangladesh put up strong batting performance in the first innings, but didn't stand up to fight on the last day as the West Indies bowlers raised their intensity.
In the past, the Bangladesh team, when put into situations like these, have appeared devoid of ideas and have been thrown off track from set plans, especially in Test cricket. In limited-overs formats, however, recently, the team has tasted some success against big teams and in foreign conditions. The tempo of the limited-overs games has suited them better; they have adjusted their batting, been skilful with their bowling and been sprightly while fielding in shorter formats. Shane Jurgensen, the interim coach, who has observed the team's performances across formats believes that regular wins have brought about the change in attitude.
"What has changed is their belief," Jurgensen said. "We had the Asia Cup and had done well in the Ireland T20s this year. Winning creates a good habit and this team understands what we do well when we win, and what we didn't quite get right when we don't win."
"I think the boys knew last night [after the third ODI] that we missed out on a little opportunity. But I believe they can win the game every time they cross the rope."
Bangladesh coaches are often asked if their team is mentally strong enough and the question popped up after they had taken the 2-0 lead too. The current position is not one the players are familiar with, but Jurgensen thinks that the team needs no more mental strength to pull it through from this point than what they needed coming into the series after the Test losses.
"I think the first two ODIs were a bit of a mind game, because we had had a tough Test series. It was pretty impressive to see how the boys responded. We need to draw upon those.
"We were so close to getting it right [on Wednesday] night. We didn't quite get through the tough periods as we did in the first two games. That is how I am looking at it."
The late addition of Elias Sunny to the squad on the eve of the fourth game is proof that Bangladesh are intent on winning; Sunny had troubled West Indies in the Chittagong Test last year.
Bangladesh fans often make do with keenly analysing little improvements in the players, as big wins are few and far between. But over this weekend, as the team approaches a major achievement, a giant leap is in demand.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent