When Bangladesh will take on England at the Oval in the inaugural match of ICC Champions Trophy 2017, it is going to be their first appearance in past 11 years in this elite ICC event. Qualifying for this eight-team tournament, surpassing two-time former World Champions West Indies, is a big step forward for Bangladesh cricket. It is a reflection of the progress which the Tigers have made in recent years, especially in white-ball cricket.
However, qualification was just the primary objective for Bangladesh. Now, their next challenge should be – making an impact, like they did by reaching the last eight stage in the 2015 World Cup in Downunder.
Though Bangladesh have made rapid strides in 50-over cricket in recent times, but most of the success have come at home or sub-continental conditions. Since its quarterfinal exit in the ICC Cricket rapid World Cup 2015, Bangladesh have won One-Day International (ODI) series against Pakistan (3-0), India (2-1), South Africa (2-1), Zimbabwe (3-0) and Afghanistan (2-1) – all at home. They have recently drawn a three-match ODI series in Sri Lanka (1-1).
However, during this renaissance period, Bangladesh have played just one ODI series outside sub-continent – against New Zealand, which they have lost 0-3.
Thus, conditions have had a major impact on their performances and in the Champions Trophy once again it will play a key role to determine Bangladesh’s fortunes. Adopting to the English conditions ahead of the tournament will be the biggest challenge for Mashrafe Mortaza and co.
A well thought-out acclimatisation plan
The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has made a very well thought out plan to prepare its team for this biggest cricketing event of this year. The Champions Trophy is scheduled to be played between June 1 to 18 – which is the start of the season in England. The wickets are expected to be fresh and lively and this can turn out to be Bangladesh’s nemesis.
To counter this issue, BCB is sending an 18-member preliminary squad (which includes all the senior pros) to the United Kingdom in the last week of April – more than a month ahead of the start of the tournament.
The boys will have a training camp in Sussex from April 26 to May 6. During this period, they will play two 50-over matches and one of those will be against the full-strength Sussex.
From there, the team will travel to Dublin to feature in a tri-series, involving hosts Ireland and New Zealand. Each team will play each other twice.
In a recent interview with the official website of International Cricket Council (ICC), Habibul Bashar, the former Bangladesh captain, and current selector spoke about the preparations plans of the team.
“We’ve been planning for the Champions Trophy for the last two years. We did not have much success outside our home grounds, but we are prepared now. We played well in the 2015 World Cup in Australia. The last series against Sri Lanka gave us a lot of confidence.
“It is important to plan separately for this tournament, which is why we are going to Ireland for a tri-nation series before the Champions Trophy. That will help us greatly in preparing for English conditions. You will see a different Bangladesh in this year’s Champions Trophy,” he informed.
Following the tri-series, Bangladesh will get two more games — warm-up matches against Pakistan and India, before taking on England on June 1. So, four matches in Ireland and two warm-up games against formidable oppositions will provide the Bangladeshi cricketers ample opportunities to get a measure of the conditions and wickets.
Along with hosts England, Australia and New Zealand are the two other teams in Bangladesh’s group and two sides amongst these four will move the semis. For Mortaza’s team, it is going to be an uphill task, especially on those English wickets, where spinners will not get much assistance.
Thus, if the Tigers want to make an impact, they have to utilise the month-long preparatory period in the UK. They did a similar camp in Sydney ahead of the last World Cup and it turned out to be immensely beneficial. Coach Chandika Hathurusingha and the team management can expect a similar response from the cricketers this time around as well.
If Bangladesh can acquire some momentum for themselves from the tri-series and warm-up games, then they have all the potentials to be the surprise package of this year’s Champions Trophy.