Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)-As South Africa took the southern route from their team hotel towards the Fatullah Cricket Stadium for their practice match, the bowling machine was perched a few feet higher at the Shere Bangla National Stadium.
The hosts are about to face a completely different challenge against South Africa, which includes preparing themselves to face six fast bowlers, most of who are fairly tall, reports ESPNcricinfo.
So the likes of Sabbir Rahman and Mushfiqur Rahim looked higher while facing the bowling machine, as the other nets had mostly even-sized pace bowlers and spinners.
The other challenge for Bangladesh is their poor playing record against South Africa, something that gave them very little confidence against Pakistan for 16 years. Between 2002 to 2011 when they last played against each other, Bangladesh only beat South Africa at the 2007 World Cup.
Bangladesh’s record against South Africa, with just one win from 24 international matches, is the joint-worst, along with their record of a single win against Australia in 26 matches across formats.
But South Africa have repeatedly said they know that Bangladesh are different now, especially after this year’s World Cup and ODI series wins over Pakistan and India. And so has Chandika Hathurusingha, Bangladesh’s coach, who does not want to focus on history, but on telling his players how good they are.
“If I believe in history, I won’t be here today,” Hathurusingha said. “I don’t believe in history. History is there to change. It is how we go about doing it, is key. We are not part of history. We are part of present and what we do now.
“I can’t do much about what the players read. I can only tell about it to players, what we can do now and what our strength is. I constantly tell them how good they are and what they can do.”
Forget history or the fact that Bangladesh are about to start this home series against one of the most feared T20 teams. Hathurusingha’s main focus during these two T20s is linking the performance now to the World T20 next year.
In the next eight months, Bangladesh are likely to play only five more T20s before the tournament in March 2016.
“These two matches have a lot to do with the World T20 in mind. We are thinking about our combination and game plan, what’s going to be effective for us. This will be our focus for this series,” he said.
Hathurusingha has also been credited in the past 12 months for recognising younger players’ capability for the highest level.
He pushed for the selection of Soumya Sarkar and Jubair Hossain, and is also known to have backed Mashrafe Mortaza’s decision of picking Mustafizur Rahman against India last month.
While Soumya, Mustafizur, Sabbir Rahman and Litton Das have impressed in various degrees, the concern surrounding young Bangladesh players has always been complacency.
Hathurusingha said that the young players have been humble, although he feels that they have every right to enjoy the recent success.
“I haven’t seen anything distracting coming in the camp. They are keeping their feet on the ground. They need to enjoy their successes. Some of the guys have done things that people have never done before so these are unprecedented successes. They have the right to enjoy what they are doing and be confident about it.”
Bangladesh has been relatively more aggressive since Mashrafe took over the captaincy in limited-overs cricket last November. They have more bowling options now, and are preferring mostly wicket-taking options. While Hathurusingha said that having more options helps the team choose either a spin-heavy or a pace-heavy bowling attack, he was more wary of his opponents’ strengths. Bangladesh’s focus, he said, should be on being consistent and being precise in decision-making.
“Lately we have been balanced in spin and pace. Traditionally Bangladesh is known to have lot of good spinners and it is not too different now. We don’t have a lot of fast bowlers but they bring different quality to the team. Some are tall, some have variation, some can swing the ball. This is our advantage: we can go either way.
“South Africa have good quick bowlers, a good batting side and lately they play spin well too. They are a very competent side. We can’t find any major weakness in their armory so we have to play consistent cricket and make good decisions in the middle,” said Hathurusingha.