Rejuvenated Tigers Takes on Pakistan
The two losing quarter finalists in the recently concluded ICC World cup starts in a crucial three matches ODI series from today at Shere Bangla Cricket Stadium Dhaka Bangladesh. The series is important in the series that the outcome will affect the ICC ranking of the teams significantly. Considering that the next ICC World Cup will be restricted to 10 teams only and more specifically top 8 teams will automatically quality the series between 7th (Pakistan) and 9th (Bangladesh) bears great significance. A series white wash by Bangladesh will bring down Pakistan a rank below from 7 th to 8th and would also close the gap between Bangladesh and Pakistan. Even a 2-1 series win will also earn Bangladesh important points.
Looking back to the track records of head to head contests between the teams Bangladesh could only win only one ODI match against Pakistan team in the World Cup in England in 1999 .Over the last 18 years Bangladesh could only go very close of winning on a couple of occasions but lost all matches against Pakistan in all format of the game till the last warm up match a couple of days earlier. The present Bangladesh team is bubbling with confidence. A sense of “Can do “attitude is prevailing among the team members which we hope will not create complacency or over confidence. Matches will still need to be played playing consistently and grabbing all opportunities like seasoned professionals.
The advantage that Bangladesh has now is that some quality young players have emerged and have given greater depth and diversity to the team. Not only one or two key performers, the team now have at least half a dozen players who can individually and collectively change the fate of the match playing fearless quality cricket. The team is absorbing pressure and is not crumbling like cookies any more. Players like Soumya Sarkar, Shabbir and Taskin looked really very impressive in the world cup. Mahamudullah and Mushfique were magical. Inspirational Mashrafee instilled “Never Say Die” attitude leading from the front. The team performed and performed admirably without major contribution from star performers inconsistent Tamim and Shakib. Home condition can make them more lethal and on the other hand create additional pressure as well. But overall Bangladesh has the best opportunity in the recent time for turning the table on Pakistan. Bangladesh now has a point to prove.
Pakistan on the other hand is a changed team. Their captain cool Misbah Ul Huq who transformed the team from ranked mediocre to a potent force has retired from ODI. Boom boom Shahid Khan Afridi is also not playing ODI anymore. The team has a new captain Azhar Ali. But the team still has some world class performers who can win matches on their day with brilliant solo efforts. Mohammad Hafiz (theprofessor) is a key player who missed the world cup through injury is back. Saeed Aajmal the mystery spinner has also returned. We are not yet sure of his wicket taking ability after adjusting his bowling action. But he remains a class act. Asad Shafique, Fawad Alam and Sarfraz Ahmed are quality batsmen. But the real key will be Pakistani pace attack of Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan and Rahat Ali. Pakistan pace attack caused the demise of South African challenge in the World Cup. Wahab Riaz tormented Australian batsmen at Adelaide Oval. Junaid Khan missed world Cup through injury and now Sohail Khan is missing Bangladesh trip through injury. Pakistani pacers bowl fast and move the ball at pace.
The real challenge will be for Bangladesh top order in the first 10 -15 overs to survive the attack. It is where the matches will make or break. Bangladeshi openers are not faring well. Tamim is going through a long bad patch. Anamul is injured and Imrul Kayes is not picked. It will be huge challenge for rookie Rony Talukdar to open against a potent pace attack. There are talks about opening with Soumya Sarkar and playing Mominul at number three. But Mominul is one of our main stay in test cricket. It will not be wise risking him for ODI. Mominul must be preserved fresh for test match duty. Tamim has to get back to top gear playing his natural self but curbing his instincts of poking his bat too often in the corridor of uncertainty. Roni Talukdar may be given a go and Soumya should play at his position in number three. Mahamudullah, Shakib, Mushfique, Shabbir, and Nasir make a formidable middle order which may absorb early reverse. Bangladesh batting has proven potential of scoring or chasing 270-280 runs against this Pakistan attack. For the first match I would suggest to play Abul Hasan in place of Mashrafee who cannot play for ICC one match ban for slow over rate in World Cup. Bangladesh will have enough spinning options in the team. Nasir and Mahamudullah can share the fifth bowler role. We should play with three pacers and Shakib as the main strike force. If necessary Soumya Sarkar can be relied on to bowl few overs. Taskin and Rubel will definitely strike early blows and Abul Hasan is also no mug as a pace bowler. Shakib can have few overs at the top and then come at business session. Mahamudullah and Nasir can exploit if there is purchase for spinners at the wicket. Bangladesh team these days field well. Shabbir and Soumya Sarkar are class acts. Nasir is also back in business.
For the todays match my team would be
Tamim Iqbal , Rony Talukdar , Soumya Sarkar , Mahamudullah Riad , Shakib al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shabbir Rahman, Nasir Hossain, Abul Hasan , Rubel Hossain and Taskin Ahmed.