Bangladesh's chance to add to their Caribbean success story
Bangladesh could not have asked for a better destination to play cricket than the West Indies in these late-summer months. The beaches, mountains and the reggae immediately spring to mind but that is just part of it; this is one of only two places in the world from where Bangladesh have departed feeling better than when they arrived.
Having won nothing this year, without their best player, and with a new coaching crew in charge, they should be happy to be playing at a place where they have reached several milestones. On their first tour there, in 2004, they took the lead for the first time, declared an innings and eventually drew abroad without the help of rain for the first time. Three years later, Bangladesh's best World Cup campaign was in the West Indies, when they beat India to move into the Super Eights where they outplayed South Africa.
In 2009 they landed in the West Indies only to hear of a players' strike that eventually had them playing against what was effectively a third eleven. They went on to pick up their first overseas Test-series win, as well as a maiden away ODI-series victory outside Zimbabwe. The following year they were knocked out of the World T20 in the Caribbean in the first round, but not before resisting well against Pakistan and Australia.
But the performances in 2004, 2007 and 2009 are high-water marks in the history of Bangladesh cricket. The expectation from the 2014 group should not be the same, but confidence and positivity can be derived from those past tours. Habibul Bashar, Khaled Mashud and Mohammad Rafique scored centuries in the same Test in 2004, the only time that has happened in a Bangladesh team. Tapash Baisya and the late Manzarul Islam did a fine job with the ball in that year's ODI series.
In the 2007 World Cup, it was the coming out party for Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, Abdur Razzak and Shakib Al Hasan while Mohammad Ashraful staged a mini-revival of his career with unbeaten knocks in the first round and 87 against South Africa in the second phase. Shakib and Tamim were running the show two years later, with help from Mahmudullah.
Among the current lot in the ODI squad, seven have toured the West Indies before while the likes of Mominul Haque, Nasir Hossain, Shamsur Rahman and Sohag Gazi have visited with Bangladesh A. Only Anamul Haque, Taskin Ahmed and Al-Amin Hossain have not toured these islands.
Mushfiqur will have to lead from the front, using his batting form to inspire the team, and ensure the captaincy is far more effective than it had been at home since January this year. As much as he would want Tamim, Nasir, Mahmudullah, Razzak and Gazi to return to form, those in form will also be asked to continue the good work.
In his first match here four years ago, a baby-faced Mominul battered West Indies A with 150 in exactly five hours. He had shared a fifth-wicket partnership of 259 runs with Nasir, who also made a century in that game in Antigua. Mominul is now an established middle-order batsman in the senior side, expected to continue his Test form and regain composure in one-day cricket.
Anamul has also scored runs in the shorter format, though there will be some calls for him to better his strike-rate. Mushfiqur has been the team's best batsman overall, while Imrul Kayes has done justice to both call-ups he got this year, though a question mark remains over his consistency.
The pace attack came alive in the short ODI series against India in June; Taskin Ahmed became the country's first bowler to take a five-for on ODI debut there. Mashrafe Mortaza has led the attack well, with Al-Amin often providing a tight spell from the other end. Rubel Hossain, the leading wicket-taker among Bangladesh fast bowlers in ODIs this year, will have to fight for a place.
What would worry Mushfiqur is the spin attack, particularly with Shakib missing. Abdur Razzak and Sohag Gazi have been poor so far this year, despite playing all their cricket in home conditions. They would be asked to continue to lead the show with the older ball, and must take an upward step.
Finally, this would be a stern opening test for new coach Chandika Hathurusingha. He has replaced Shane Jurgensen, who was seemingly doing a good enough job until everything went wrong in January this year. The fallout between Jurgensen and the BCB should keep Hathurusingha on his toes, despite the early bonhomie that he has been accorded.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84