Despite the series not being part of the ICC ODI Super League, it was important for Bangladesh to win a game on this tour, to lift their confidence. Though the visitors went down to the West Indies 2-0 in both Tests and T20Is, West Indies knew they wouldn’t have it easy in the 50 overs.
The six-wicket win on Sunday was also Bangladesh’s first victory in international cricket since their ODI series in South Africa in March. Sri Lanka trounced them at home before the tour of the West Indies. The hosts’ pace blew them away in the Test series. Their T20I outfit continued to struggle as they lost the series 2-0 last week. For the majority of the month, Bangladesh looked clueless, bereft of ideas and characters to step up.
Furthermore, the visitors couldn’t train ahead of the ODI series due to the heavy rain in Guyana. It put all the onus on Tamim Iqbal. who said he hadn’t batted in the nets for the last ten days – to bring Bangladesh back to winning ways in the ODIs. Mind you, they are also without both their established stars Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim for the first time since both made their debut, 16 years ago. But Tamim has proved once again that he thrives in difficult situations.
Opting to field first, Tamim was keen to attack West Indies, with the match being played for 41 overs a side due to wet outfield. Tamim also placed close-in fielders to ensure West Indies didn’t take singles easily. He also stationed a slip fielder in almost every over.
The intent was spot on from the bowlers as well. Left-arm medium-pacer Shoriful Islam provided him with two double-wicket overs. Mustafizur Rahman blew away Shai Hope off his first ball. Taskin Ahmed was impressive with his change in pace. Offspinning allrounder Mehidy Hasan Miraz took three crucial wickets. Nasum Ahmed did not look like he was making his ODI debut. A complete bowling performance means Bangladesh restricted West Indies to a paltry 149 for 9. The visitors then chased down the target with six wickets in hand.
But, there was a concern with Bangladesh’s catching and batting. They – predictably – dropped four catches, all after they had reduced West Indies to 96 for 7. The batting wasn’t convincing either, but they got the job done. That’s been Bangladesh’s story in ODIs for the last few years. Since 2015, they have won 56 of the 101 ODIs , unlike the other two formats where they have not had much success.
The team is still a work-in-progress. After Mashrafe Mortaza resigned as captain a couple of years ago, Bangladesh needed a steady hand to ensure Bangladesh didn’t go off the boil, and Tamim did exactly that. Like Mortaza, Tamim is also good at man-managing.
What works in Tamim’s favour is that he is a popular senior figure among the players, and he has been the unofficial cultural and social leader on tours. Young players look up to him.
However, looking at the big picture, Tamim also has to back the fast bowlers as they have shown the ability to improve in the last couple of years. Giving an extended run for young batters and backing them will also be key for Bangladesh to improve under Tamim.
The 2023 ODI World Cup is still more than a month away, and for Bangladesh, there’s still a lot of work to be done – especially in batting and fielding. Shoriful, Mustafizur, Mahmudullah and Afif Hossain dropped skiers on Sunday, which continued the theme of poor catching that has now extended for 15 months. Batting too remains not so convincing. Even Tamim can’t explain after getting run out for 33. Najmul Hossain Shanto and Mahmudullah both made some runs but looked laboured.
Having beaten odds and tough opponents in the ODI format in the recent past, only time will tell if Tamim’s team can put up a strong show at the World Cup.