Perhaps for the first time in 15 years, Bangladesh find themselves under pressure against Zimbabwe at home. During this period, Bangladesh have enjoyed, particularly at home, a heavy advantage in terms of spin-bowling, coupled with the opposition’s lack of experience. The loss in the Sylhet Test two years ago was treated as a blip for the home side, and a big occasion in Zimbabwe cricket. But normal service resumed thereafter as Bangladesh bounced back to beat Zimbabwe by 218 runs in the next Test.
The current situation, however, presents a different context for the home side. They have lost their previous six Tests by large margins, which has led changes and shifts in their selection and game plans, and also invited the criticism of their board president three days before the Test. Whether that inspires or demotivates them is going to be one of the aspects to watch in this one-off Test.
Mominul Haque, already described as “soft” by the board chief, is going to lead in his first home Test, an altogether different proposition for the left-hander. Despite the low-visibility nature of this game, it could make or break his captaincy, given the team’s recent poor run.
Bangladesh have opted for a bowling line-up comprising two seamers and two spinners. The batting line-up is almost set with Mushfiqur Rahim slotting back into the middle order after missing the Rawalpindi Test.
Zimbabwe, meanwhile, will have to deal with the absence of captain Sean Williams but Brendan Taylor, Sikandar Raza and stand-in captain Craig Ervine will look to provide the backbone for the performance.
Openers Prince Masvaure and Kevin Kasuza give Zimbabwe hope of stability at the top while Donald Tiripano can be expected to lead the bowling attack. This line-up will have good memories of competing well against Sri Lanka recently at home, as they look to pile on more pain on Bangladesh.
Bangladesh LLLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Abu Jayed has quietly cemented his position in the Test side, having become only the second Bangladesh pace bowler with 20 wickets in the last five years. He was accurate against Pakistan in the Rawalpindi Test, and earned praise from the senior players for his ability to bowl with a genuine outswing with both the new and old ball.
Sikandar Raza comes into this Test match fresh from a seven-wicket haul against Sri Lanka in Harare last month. He had also led the Zimbabwe attack in their Test win over Bangladesh in Sylhet two years ago, with a match haul of six wickets. Raza will have a crucial role to play with the bat, too, specially in the absence of Sean Williams in the middle-order.
Mushfiqur Rahim and Mehidy Hasan are automatic choices to replace Mahmudullah and Rubel Hossain from the previous Test XI. Bangladesh are set to field two seamers in Ebadot Hossain and Abu Jayed, with Taijul Islam and Mehidy Hasan making up the spin department.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Saif Hassan, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 4 Mominul Haque (capt), 5 Mushfiqur Rahim, 6 Mohammad Mithun, 7 Liton Das (wk), 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 9 Taijul Islam, 10 Ebadot Hossain, 11 Abu Jayed
Zimbabwe could just make one change from the side that drew against Sri Lanka last month, with Timycen Maruma taking the place of the absent captain Sean Williams.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Prince Masvaure, 2 Kevin Kasuza, 3 Craig Ervine (capt), 4 Brendan Taylor, 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Regis Chakabva (wk), 7 Timycen Maruma, 8 Carl Mumba, 9 Tinotenda Mutombodzi, 10 Donald Tiripano, 11 Victor Nyauchi
Pitch and conditions
Traditionally a spinners’ paradise, the Shere Bangla National Stadium pitch is unlikely to be any different despite the home team picking several pace bowlers in their squad. The weather is expected to stay clear during these five days in Dhaka.
Stats and Trivia
This will be the 100th international match between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
A 10-wicket haul will give Mehidy Hasan 100 Test wickets.
Sikandar Raza’s 7-113 is the second best bowling figures by a Zimbabwe bowler in Tests.
Coronavirus outbreak: Heather Knight signs up for NHS volunteer scheme | Cricket
England captain Heather Knight has signed up to be a National Health Service (NHS) volunteer during the coronavirus outbreak.
Knight only returned from Australia, where she led England to the semi-finals of the Women’s T20 World Cup, 10 days ago and is now living under the UK’s lockdown rules with her boyfriend in Bristol.
She revealed in her BBC column that she had volunteered for the scheme that will see people support the health service by delivering food and medicine, transporting patients to appointments and making calls to those in isolation.
“I signed up to the NHS’s volunteer scheme as I have a lot of free time on my hands and I want to help as much as I can,” Knight said. “My brother and his partner are doctors, and I have a few friends who work in the NHS, so I know how hard they are working and how difficult it is for everyone.”
More than half a million people signed up when the volunteer programme was announced on Wednesday. The following day, people from around the country took a moment during the evening to applaud the NHS from their residences.
“Standing on our doorstep, joining in the #ClapForCarers was incredible, and getting involved and volunteering will help even more,” Knight said.
“I’m going to get the car out as I’ve volunteered to transport medicine, and also speak to people who are self-isolating. If someone is home alone, you can ring them up and chat. They have had so many people sign up.”
The ECB, meanwhile, has indicated that it could consider installing coronavirus checkpoints and isolation units at grounds, as it examines the possibility of resuming cricket behind closed doors this summer.
Steve Elworthy, the ECB’s director of events, said games would need take place inside a “sterile” environment, likely with fewer than 500 people in the venue. “So it’s how you test them at the gate, the isolation units that you have to put in,” he told the Guardian. “These are considerations we are thinking about.”
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‘Andre Russell now is our Chris Gayle, our Brian Lara’ – Dwayne Bravo
Andre Russell is one of the most valuable players in T20 cricket, and now his West Indies team-mate Dwayne Bravo has likened the Jamaican to “our Chris Gayle, our Brian Lara” in T20Is. Bravo’s praise came in the wake of Russell’s impactful return during the two-match T20I series in Sri Lanka, which was also the first series he played for West Indies since being ruled out of the 2019 World Cup due to an injury.
West Indies won the series 2-0 with Russell playing a big hand, scoring 35 off 14 balls in the first T20I and 40 off 14 in the second. The latter was, in particular, a whirlwind knock as Russell packed six sixes to add to the four he hit in the first match, enough to fetch the Player-of-the-Series award.
“He’s the best in the world,” Bravo, who was part of the West Indies side, said in praise of Russell in a chat with Trinidad-based radio station I955 FM on Friday. “It’s the same I used to say of Chris Gayle when Chris Gayle was in his prime – we are happy to have him representing us, we didn’t have to come up and bowl against him in an international match. It’s the same with Andre Russell. Andre Russell now is our Chris Gayle, is our Brian Lara, in the T20 format. He is the superstar.”
The Sri Lanka T20I series was Bravo’s second in the West Indies dressing room after he came out of retirement this January for the home T20I series against Ireland. That series was Bravo’s first international assignment after 2016, the last time he had played for West Indies.
Despite being the defending T20 World Cup champions, West Indies have been inconsistent in a format where most of their players have become household names. Last November they lost 2-1 to Afghanistan the T20I series played in India. Another 2-1 defeat followed immediately in the T20I series against India. In January this year, they bounced back in the final game of the three-match T20I series against Ireland to level the series 1-1 with one game washed out. Then they started the Sri Lanka tour losing the ODI series 3-0 before winning the T20I series.
According to Bravo, the team management, led by captain Kieron Pollard and head coach Phil Simmons, had acknowledged that there was a lot of work to be done with West Indies preparing to defend their title in the T20 World Cup, scheduled for October-November in Australia this year. Bravo said the team had set itself the bigger goal of making West Indies once again the “dominant” team in world cricket.
“Prior to that [T20I series in Sri Lanka], we weren’t really consistent as a team over the years in T20 cricket,” Bravo said. “With the 3-0 loss in the ODI series, we T20 guys had a chat among ourselves along with the management and made a pledge that we want to start back winning series. We said we wanted to be back being the most dominant team in the T20 format.
“We have produced some of the best players in the world and when we are together in the same team, we have to stamp our authority, and to get the cricketing world to respect West Indies cricket again and especially West Indies’ T20 team. We said, ‘All hands on deck, let’s start with this Sri Lanka series and make sure we send the message.’ Yeah, that’s what we did.”
Bravo said the depth of talent in the West Indies T20 set-up could be gauged from the fact that he, despite being the most experienced player in the squad, had to bat at a position he had never batted at previously. “When the coach wrote the batting line-up, I was down to bat at number nine. I said to the guys, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever been in a T20 team and I’m down to bat at number nine.’
“Putting all egos aside, I’m happy with that because at the end of the day, I accept the fact guys like Rovman Powell and Fabian Allen and [Shimron] Hetmyer, the talent and the ability they have to hit the ball, I’m just happy to be like that – father-figure, mentor, guide, to allow these young boys to go out there and showcase their talent to the world. All of us are on the same page, no egos in the dressing room, one common goal to just win cricket games and dominate.”
Space constraints could hamper Indian players’ training – John Gloster
The COVID-19 lockdown could provide a new generation of cricketers the time and space required to hone the mental side of their game, according to John Gloster, the Rajasthan Royals’ physiotherapist. He believes that some lasting benefits could yet arise from cricket’s globally enforced break, in spite of the cramped conditions that some players will currently be experiencing as they attempt to train at home.
Gloster, who worked as India’s physiotherapist from 2005 to 2008 and has been based in Mumbai ever since, is currently waiting – along with everyone else involved with this season’s IPL – for the final decision on a tournament that is currently postponed until April 15, but is likely to be pushed back further still, with India currently implementing strict measures to combat the virus.
And until that moment comes, Gloster and his fellow back-room staffers are in the complicated situation of remotely monitoring their players’ physical, mental and nutritional levels, while helping them to channel their pent-up energies in productive ways.
“For any athlete, the thing they hate most is the fear of the unknown,” Gloster told ESPNcricinfo. “When a cricketer is injured, and is unsure about time-frames, it’s easy for them to become frustrated. And that’s when we need to start working on the mental and psychological side of the game. It’s a similar situation here, because we don’t yet know when they will be playing again, so there’s no definitive starting point to work back from.
“The physical side of their games is probably the easiest bit to manage, to be perfectly honest,” he added. “Because we know about that aspect, we know what constraints each player has in their home environments. But the mental side of this situation is taking us into some pretty uncharted waters.”
Speaking about the situation last week, Royals’ England star Ben Stokes admitted that he was obliged to carry on training as if the tournament will get underway next month, and both he and his team-mate Jos Buttler have been posting regular videos of their training on Instagram.
But Gloster admitted that his focus was more on the young Indian players in the Royals set-up, many of whom are in their first professional contracts and so are not yet tied into the sort of Athlete Management System (AMS) that co-ordinates the training programmes of the game’s elite players.
“The physical constraints that the Indian players are now having seems to be a lot greater than that of the guys in say, South Africa, Australia or the UK,” he said, “because space is an incredible constraint here. I’ve seen some fantastic footage coming out of the players in the UK where they’re in their own gyms and they’ve got lots of space, and I think the Indian boys are going to be perhaps at a physical disadvantage there.
“But one of the things that we’ve worked on very hard with our IPL players is knowing them 365 days of the year, and at an intimate level too – where they’re from, what their background is, what they eat, how big their house is, what village they’re from. All this stuff matters even more in an environment like this, because now we know what’s realistic or unrealistic when we ask them to do things.
“I’m the only physio who’s based here all year round so I’ve had the opportunity to build these relationships with the players. I’ve just had Varun Aaron sending me photos of him grilling fish at home on his barbecue, and then downstairs in his gym training. Sanju Samson sends me photos asking, ‘can I eat this? Can I eat that?’, and Shreyas Gopal asked me for cooking tips the other day. They are comfortable about asking questions which are now suddenly very, very relevant to them.”
Nevertheless, Gloster admitted that the unique circumstances of the lockdown would create some fascinating scenarios when play does finally resume, given that no amount of training can fully replicate a live match experience.
“Every single cricketer, probably for the first time since the second world war, will be starting from exactly the same place in terms of match fitness,” he said. “This is really interesting, because normally when we enter an environment like the IPL, we have to manage guys who are overloaded, and factor that into their training, as well as guys who are under-loaded and need to match the necessary levels.
“Whereas on this occasion, everyone will be entering the tournament without any match fitness, which will bring with it a large injury risk because the expectation for all professional sportsmen is that you’ve always got to go at 100 percent.”
Therefore the best preparation that all players can make in the downtime, in Gloster’s opinion, is to hone their mental games, and take the opportunity to broaden the horizons that sometimes get restricted by the non-stop nature of modern professional sport.
“I think we’re going to find just how mentally resilient all these players are,” he said. “Actually, I think it’ll be a really good test for these guys because they’re going to be tested by this environment more than they’ve ever been tested by any stressful situation on the cricket field.
“There are going to be some great learnings for these guys about themselves, about how you switch off and get away from cricket, and what strategies can you use now that will make you better when we go back to the game. Because the best players in the world are the ones that can actually switch off from cricket and mentally relax when they need to.
“The Rahul Dravids of the world were great readers. Shane Warne did whatever Shane Warne did outside of his game time. I don’t think modern cricketers are very good at that, it’s just cricket or nothing else. So this could be a great opportunity to find hobbies other relaxation techniques, and drill a little deeper into their own psyches.
“For some that might be simple things like reading and board games, but I also like to see the guys with families spending time with their kids. As we know, modern cricketers don’t spend much time with their families so this chance just to reconnect can be a really good thing as well.
“I think this is all part of a process that will be maturing our cricketers a lot more than they think. And ultimately that’s going to benefit them when they get back to playing.”
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