Six days in Leicester, of which three were spent training with intensity that went up in increments, came to an end for the Bangladesh cricket team yesterday. It was an optional training camp, separate from the official World Cup camp that the Tigers will embark upon in Cardiff from tomorrow. Bangladesh had a bit of downtime after winning the tri-series final in Ireland against West Indies on May 17 -- the men’s team’s first silverware in an ODI multi-team event -- and the camp in Leicester was set up presumably to maintain the heady momentum for the World Cup starting from May 30.
“We chose Leicester specifically because of the excellent training facilities here,” Bangladesh head coach Steve Rhodes told reporters after training yesterday at the Leicestershire County Cricket Club. “They are very helpful here, the practice pitches are excellent and we can also use the centre wickets.”
Only Shakib and Mushfiqur practised batting on the first day of optional training on May 19, before most of the 10 of the 15-member squad came to Grace Road in sunny weather to practise the following day. Yesterday, all 13 members were in England -- skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and Tamim Iqbal were granted a break and will join the team from tomorrow in Cardiff.
If maintaining the intensity that saw Bangladesh win the Ireland tri-series with an all-win record was the purpose of the Leicester training block, the camp appeared to be a successful one. There were lessons to be learnt, positive ones, from Ireland and the Tigers seemed eager to expand on them.
The sessions in Leicester had settled into a pattern. The engine room of Bangladesh’s batting -- Shakib, Mushfiqur, Mahmudullah Riyad and Mohammad Mithun -- usually batted at the centre wicket. They are the middle-order batsmen who will likely be entrusted to build the innings to a point where the Tigers can launch a final assault on the true wickets that they are likely to get at the World Cup.
But that is where Bangladesh have appeared weak so far, and that is the aspect where Rhodes seemed to have dedicated extra attention in this training camp. The likes of Sabbir Rahman, Mosaddek Hossain, Mohammad Saifuddin and Liton Das -- although a fringe opener but expected to provide ballistic starts when picked -- were given extended net sessions in the outer nets. Teammates, net bowlers and sidearm wielding fielding coach Ryan Cook were all bowling to a certain plan and the batsmen were focused on getting the big hits in. Cook was bowling fast bouncers with his sidearm and Sabbir and Liton were cracking pulls and cuts, square-of-the wicket shots essential to scoring fast runs in the death overs.
The Leicester camp will give way to an even more intense Cardiff block but the Tigers, buoyed by their Irelqnd success, have given themselves the best chance of being primed for more success when the business end rolls around.