Plenty at stake for improving Bangladesh
January 4, 2010
Start time 14.30 local, (08.30 GMT)
Three subcontinent teams usher in the new year with a tri-series at the Shere Bangla stadium in Mirpur. Lengthy rest periods are rare in the international calendar these days. Barely a week after leaving India's shores - a tour that stretched them physically as well as mentally - Sri Lanka are back at the departure terminal. They've made sweeping changes to their team, leaving out Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan, in a bid to set their combination right and make amends for what happened in India.
It's clear they are a better team than what we saw in India. Their misfortune was that their bowlers couldn't figure out a way to restrict the batsmen on run-heavy pitches. Their outing against Bangladesh tomorrow will not be as taxing, but it won't be a walk in the park either. Their tour of the country last year will be remembered for the one-dayer they lost to Shakib Al Hasan's brilliance with the bat and the tri-series final they nearly lost after being reduced to an embarrassing 5 for 6. The plan is simple, at least on paper - get a win in the bag against the weakest team in the competition, before facing upto the strongest.
The one aspect that could go against Bangladesh in this series is their lack of match practice over the last two months. The locals will look forward to this series for one good reason, to see if their team can carry forward their form from 2009 (14 wins out of 19) against tougher opposition. Victories against Zimbabwe and a second-string West Indies team may have inflated those numbers a big way, but at least they were richer for the experience of winning.
Form guide (last 5 completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLWLL
Watch out for
Upul Tharanga: With Jayasuriya dropped and questions over his future with the team and where he should ideally bat, Tharanga will utilise his absence to cement his place at the top. He may not be as flashy or instinctive at the crease like Jayasuriya or Tillakaratne Dilshan, but can be just as intimidating with his crisply timed strokes and ability to score briskly. He was the second highest run-getter for Sri Lanka in the India ODIs with 295 runs at 94.95 with a century and two fifties. This tour presents Tharanga the best opportunity he's ever had.
Thilan Thushara: Thushara was one of the bowlers Sri Lanka sorely missed in India. It put a lot of pressure on Nuwan Kulasekara and Dammika Prasad, who couldn't maintain any consistency. In Thushara Sri Lanka now have a bowler who can hit the deck hard and rough up the batsmen with pace. With Chaminda Vaas and Muralitharan missing, Thushara brings with him the valuable component known as experience.
Spin: Bangladesh make no secret of their strength - spin - and why not? With Mashrafe Mortaza out, and a blow-hot blow-cold Shahadat Hossain, they naturally wouldn't want to throw in too many untested youngsters. Spin is the way forward and as their coach Jamie Siddons said, no other team has more spin-bowling allrounders like Bangladesh. Also watch out for faster over-rates, in that case.
No specific line-up announced. With a few senior players resting, Sri Lanka will experiment a bit with their line-up over the course of the tournament. One thing they can do is recall Chamara Silva to the middle order, which looks thin on experience. Silva is a good finisher, so a player like Thilina Kandamby can learn a thing or two about that art when batting with him.
Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan (vice-capt), 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), 4 Thilan Samaraweera, 5 Thilina Kandamby, 6 Chamara Silva, 7 Thissara Perera, 8 Muthumudalige Pushpakumara/Malinga Bandara, 9 Suraj Randiv, 10 Thilan Thushara, 11 Chanaka Welagedera
Bangladesh have announced that their rookie right-arm seamer, Shafiul Islam, will make his debut. He will partner Rubel Hossain, one of their finds last year. However, the ICL returnees, Aftab Ahmed and Shahriar Nafees, will not be playing. The same goes for Syed Rasel and Shahadat Hossain, who replaced Nazmul Hossain. Shafiul was one of the leading wicket-takers in the club scene last season.
"We have tried all bowling combinations for seamers, so we are going with another one now," said Siddons. "We have nothing to lose out in trying. He (Shafiul) has got a lot of tricks up his sleeve. He does a few things with the ball so I'm really excited. Shafiul and Rubel could go for a few runs or they could do very well. This is an ideal opportunity for them and we have confidence in them."
Bangladesh 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Mohammad Ashraful, 4 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 5 Raqibul Hasan, 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 8 Naeem Islam, 9 Abdur Razzak, 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Shafiul Islam
Pitch and conditions
The dew will be a major factor after 8.30 PM, said coach Siddons. In fact, in the recent ODI series against Zimbabwe, all three day-nighters were won by the team batting second. Therefore, it should be a straightforward decision for the captain winning the toss.
Stats and trivia
- Sri Lanka are the only major international team to have lost to Bangladesh twice, in Bangladesh. India and New Zealand have lost a game each.
- In seven day-night matches at the Shere Bangla Stadium, four have been won by the team batting first.
"We would to love to play against big teams as we can show the world that Bangladesh has improved. But it's important to play teams like Zimbabwe so that we can win and derive confidence. Good performances against India can help the players get noticed for the IPL.
Shakib Al Hasan stresses on the biggest incentive for his players in this series
"This series will help us know if we are getting better or not. We have no fears against Sri Lanka and we would like to make them regret that they have left some big names out of the side for this series.
Underestimate Bangladesh at your own peril, implies Jamie Siddons
"Even in India, Suraj Randiv was the best spinner. And [Malinga] Bandara has been around for years and he gets another opportunity here. Pushpukamara is a spin bowling allrounder. So we are not worried."
The absence of Murali and Mendis shouldn't affect Sri Lanka's chances, says coach Trevor Bayliss
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo