Bangladesh head for Caribbean with eye on World T20 success
Bangladesh travel almost 19,000 miles from Dhaka to Port-of-Spain to Colombo over the next two weeks to take on opponents as varied as Barbados, Afghanistan and Trinidad & Tobago in warm-up matches in Colombo and the Caribbean. Their target, though, is further down the line: on September 21, when they take on New Zealand in their World Twenty20 opener.
"The primary objective in the World Cup is to qualify from the first round," Bangladesh coach Richard Pybus said on the eve of the team's departure for the West Indies, where they play in a four-nation Twenty20 tournament as the BCB XI. "We need to play our best game on both days. They [New Zealand and Pakistan, their second opponents] are good sides, we have to respect them."
Pybus called Twenty20 "the most demanding of formats" as it doesn't allow for a single mistake but pointed out how much Bangladesh have progressed as a Twenty20 unit in the past three months.
"We have two games to get it right. This is the most demanding of formats, so we are going there to win our first game. We have to put in a lot of work. We are not going into the tournament as favourites, let's be realistic. Up until a month ago we didn't have a ranking. We beat South Africa, Ireland 3-0; we didn't do well in Holland and there are reasons for that but no excuses.
"To be frank, our goal over time is to develop into a dominant side in the world. It is not going to happen overnight. There is no quick fix. We are going there to play our very best, we intend to win every game," he said.
The match against New Zealand will be the first meeting between the two sides since Bangladesh crushed New Zealand 4-0 in a one-day series nearly two years ago. Since then the performances of the two teams have taken an upward and downward slide respectively. New Zealand have only defeated Zimbabwe in two full series and beaten Pakistan in a Twenty20 series in December 2010, but lost heavily to South Africa, West Indies and India. Though Bangladesh haven't set the world alight, they impressed in the Asia Cup and in a tough Twenty20 series win over Ireland in July this year, besides defeating the South Africans in the unofficial Twenty20 tri-series in Zimbabwe in June.
Allrounder Shakib Al Hasan also pointed out the importance of Bangladesh's immediate schedule to hold on to the momentum the team has built up in the Twenty20 format. "We aren't thinking about the [World Twenty20] now. We are taking it match by match. The next 2-3 weeks will be extremely important for us. If we can improve a bit through these games [in Trinidad &Tobago], then I am sure we can do [well] in the tournament," he said.
"I think we can win both the matches this time if we play our best game. We'll be confident if our build-up [to the World T20] is good. We have a positive mindset. The majority of the players are confident, they are scoring runs," Shakib said.
Vice-captain Mahmudullah too believed that the first game of the tournament is what the team is building towards, saying, "We are not thinking of two matches right now. We want to think about winning one match at a time. The coach said that our first target is to qualify for the Super Eights. We will set our next goals afterwards."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Bangladesh