Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)-Cricket will break into newer grounds in Bangladesh this July and August with the first international matches being played here during these months.
It would mean the Bangladesh players will be pressed to play in a more unpredictable climate and for a sustained period. While Bangladesh teams have played more than 30 international matches in five separate years, including 2014, the intensity of 2015 has been quite different, reports ESPNcricinfo.
After completing the highly competitive Dhaka Premier League in early January, they went straight into World Cup build-up, first at home and then in Brisbane.
They played four practice matches before making it to their first knockout stage match in the World Cup after more than four weeks of intense scrutiny, travel and cricket.
The post-World Cup phase comprised the BCL one-day tournament, the Pakistan series and within a month, a draining series against India, ending in their exhilarating and emotional maiden ODI series victory against their large neighbours.
Yet, an equally formidable adversary is around the corner in the form of South Africa.
The team has pulled through a gruelling season in fine style despite a demanding schedule and a string of injuries.
Tamim Iqbal said before the India series that he had to remove a malignant tumor in his knee while Shakib Al Hasan apparently is playing with an injured finger.
Mushfiqur Rahim has recovered from a finger injury while Mahmudullah’s finger is just out of the bandage. Taskin Ahmed, too, is all but ruled out of the South Africa series with a left side tear.
But Mario Villavarayan, Bangladesh’s strength and conditioning coach, believes the players are already well prepared for the workload and have made strides forward in their awareness to take care of themselves.
“Most of the preparation has been done,” Villavarayan said. “Now it is about maintaining [fitness] and topping it up whenever time permits. In between series there’s hardly any time. During times like the rain-interrupted Fatullah Test, we got chance to work on the players. When they don’t have too much workload on certain days, we top it up in the gym or some running or cycling.
“It is a challenge for anybody, for that matter in Sri Lanka or India. We have got to learn to play in those conditions. We have trained when it was hot. These guys played the BCL game [in late May] in hot weather.”
While there have been the injuries, the bigger picture is much better for Bangladesh, according to Villavarayan. When he joined last year with head coach Chandika Hathurusingha, the perception was he had to work with a lazy lot. Within a few months though, Villavarayan was given a great example of the Bangladesh players’ commitment even in the most trying circumstances.
“When I was coming here I was given this impression that guys are not that keen on fitness. The biggest thing that hit me was that last year in July during Ramadan, we were doing running sessions at 3.30 pm in the afternoon.
“These boys were fasting but they were running and pushing themselves. Those first few weeks proved I was given a wrong impression about the boys. From that point they have gone on well,” said Villavarayan.
But he said that progress of their fitness levels will take time and will depend heavily on what they do when out of Villavarayan’s supervision. Here too, the trainer has seen progress.
“A month ago I said that I have seen improvement in their attitude and training habits. That’s within one year. If they keep going on the same track, we will see progress. They can’t change quickly. It is slow progress. From what I have seen over the last year, it has improved a lot.
“I look after them here. When they go home, they have to look after themselves. That is what I have seen improved. They get into good habits and they are doing it at home. It is the main thing. This is the professionalism coming in. If they are not going to do it when I am not around, they are not going to help themselves,” he said.
Villavarayan now has to ensure that the Bangladesh players cross their toughest period – the last series before they take a well-earned rest in August and September – without too many fitness issues. Like any trainer, he will have to keep his eye out for anyone falling behind, but he has a plan for everyone.
“We did our fitness testing before the India series. I have given them individual targets. If I have seen a weak area, we work on those. We can’t make massive fitness improvements in between these two series. We need to keep topping up on the weak areas and maintaining the good areas,” said Villavarayan.