This will sound odd given this is a year containing two Ashes tours, an ICC tournament and numerous other series. But Zimbabwe v Bangladesh has to be one of my most anticipated tours of the year. Why? Because, these two minnows stand at a major crossroads. The importance of this series for both teams is immense.
This is a chance for Bangladesh to take advantage of their new-found confidence and good form, and claim a rare away-series victory. If they win both matches they can get themselves closer to that positive win-loss ratio that they hold in limited-overs matches against Zimbabwe, and finally prove that they're not the worst Test team and they do deserve their spot. For Zimbabwe this is a chance to prove that their return to the Test arena - which hasn't gone too well since their comeback victory over Bangladesh in 2011 - wasn't a mistake.
Now on to the series itself. It started off with the Zimbabwe players threatening to go on strike over their winter contracts. This has now been averted, but did bring about some more unwanted news for Zimbabwean cricket with Craig Ervine not signing a contract and, for the time being at least, ending his time with the Zimbabwean national team. He will be joining his brother Sean, himself a former Test cricketer, in English county cricket. Zimbabwe would do well to look into the reasoning behind these two promising players doing this, with a view to correct the problem so that they don't lose more cricketers to county cricket or another nation's domestic set-up in the future. Perhaps a look at what the likes of Ireland and such do in terms of contracted players and county cricket could provide some help?
Bangladesh's major problem coming into this series is one of lack of pace. Especially since Mashrafe Mortaza, their premier pace bowler, is still out through injury. They will be bolstered in their batting with the return of Shakib Al Hasan; That, and Bangladesh's strong batting performances against Sri Lanka recently, should cause Zimbabwe concern over their own ability to get 20 wickets. So we could be seeing some high scores this series.
Perhaps this series will also provide Zimbabwe with enough matches to get themselves back in the rankings, finally populating the table with the 10 Full Member teams that should be there (ignoring my belief that Ireland should be given a chance in Tests).
This has all the precursors of going down as a pivotal series for both teams in terms of their history, and the rivalry between these two cricketing nations. We can only hope that the cricket on offer is of good quality.
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