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Firdose Moonda in Harare
April 15, 2013
For the first time in their cricket history, Bangladesh enter a series as favourites. Usually, they are underdogs, occasionally they spring surprises, and when they play Zimbabwe it is considered an even match. Not this time, though.
Zimbabwe have had months of no competitive cricket, they were recently blanked in the West Indies, and various financial problems resulted in a threatened player boycott in the lead up to this series. Bangladesh had a satisfying tour of Sri Lanka, where they celebrated a maiden double-century and their highest Test total. It's obvious which team is in better shape.
It's also clear that the expectation Bangladesh constantly operate under is now realistic. That prospect is as exciting as it is scary and Bangladesh coach Shane Jurgensen's biggest task over the next two weeks is managing it.
"We're going to try keeping things really simple," Jurgensen said. "In each series we want to improve, whoever we are playing against. With that attitude in mind, we try to take away the expectations but yes, we've also come here to win."
Bravado was a quality Bangladesh usually struggled with and even their attempts at it were mostly seen as manufactured rather than authentic. Now, they have reason to consider their belief genuine because of the strides they have made.
"In 2012, we had a good year in one-day cricket. That confidence is starting to move into other formats," Jurgensen said. "What has been encouraging is the consistency in approach. We've got a group of guys hitting their mid-20s, and some slightly older guys. [They have] hit the prime of their career, when experience and physical strength all come into one. Since I've been with the team, they have really improved their whole team attitude as well. Everything we do is for the team."
An example of someone who has done that is Mohammad Ashraful. Known as a talent who thorws his wicket away, he showed real grit in Sri Lanka. "He is looking to become the new Ash, to be more patient," Jurgensen said, "The mental toughness that he had there is a sign that he has improved a lot. There was a hardly a false shot in that innings. His change of approach and attitude is really a reflection of the whole team."
With maturity growing in the batting group, Jurgensen expects that to be their strength, even under stern examination in foreign conditions. Although Zimbabwe will hope for a lively surface for their seamers, it is unlikely given the time of year.
All they will get is a strip with good carry and is probably quite flat. Bangladesh already had practice on pitches like those in Sri Lanka, according to Jurgensen. "The wickets in Sri Lanka were very good cricket wickets. They had good pace and a bit of bounce - basically what we are going to see here. So that series in SL was the best preparation we could have had."
Jurgensen expects his batsmen to hold their own so the anxiety is more over his bowlers. "It is an area that we do want to improve. Our main strength has been around the spinners and although we have some very good holding fast bowlers, what we lack at times is experience in tough situations," he said. "For the guys to have a little bit more ownership, there's a bit of honesty, that's going to take a little bit of time. I am asking the bowlers to step up."
But more than that, Jurgensen is asking the team to continue employing the philosophy that brought to Harare in a more advantageous position than ever before, because that is what he believes will see them live up to the expectation that has been created. "One of my mottoes is: let's work hard and have fun at the same time. The team has run with it and with that, we've had success.
"Everyone wants success. What a lot of people forget sometimes is that we want success as well. When we have a bad day, we don't mean to. Some people forget the boys are human beings and they are all very young and they have been learning about their games and their individual craft. We've done a lot of different things that will help them step up."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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