Having done relatively well in the drawn ODI series, after having aced all expectations by winning their first Test against Sri Lanka on March 19, the upcoming T20I series looms as a kind of tie-breaker to end the tour. That may be a good line to sell the series to spectators, but the importance of the two T20Is may lie elsewhere.
“Of course, every match is important no matter which format we play,” said team manager Khaled Mahmud at the team hotel in Colombo yesterday afternoon when asked if the upcoming series assumes special importance now that both Test and ODI series have ended in stalemates. “And I think our plans are geared towards that target. I believe that we want to end well here hopefully. I believe that the boys are upbeat, and we have planned well, and if we can execute them on the field then of course that is possible.”
However, while there was genuine hope of a Bangladesh triumph in the ODIs and even in the Tests, T20 cricket is the team's weakest format. They have won just 20 of their 43 games in the format, and of those 20, excluding Zimbabwe, only five were won against Test playing nations. While their victory over Sri Lanka in the teams' last meeting in the Asia Cup in Dhaka early last year may be seen as a good sign, Bangladesh have lost their last seven T20Is across the World T20 following the Asia Cup and the three-match series in New Zealand. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, have won four of their last five T20Is away in South Africa and Australia.
This series may well be a glimpse into Bangladesh's future, because as Mahmud said, only in T20s is there a chance to experiment.
“In Tests we are a fixed team; there is not much scope for change there. The one-day team is also very stable. So, if we want to see new players the only format for that is T20s,” Mahmud said when asked about the inclusion of former Under-19 seam-bowling all-rounder Mohammad Saifuddin. The young left-arm seamer was earlier in Sri Lanka for the one-day warm-up match against the Sri Lanka Board President's XI on March 22 before returning to Bangladesh to play the ACC Emerging Cup.
“There is no pressure here with rankings, like we have in Tests and ODIs. We have to make new players ready. Thankfully for the next series our team are good enough. But if you look two or three years down the line, then there will be a vacuum, like there was a few years ago. So that is what we want to fill up; we want to ensure that we do not suddenly have a vacuum,” said Mahmud, adding that staying and training with the national team has an added benefit of building up young players.
While the Bangladesh cricket team now have a core that has endured the test of time, there are gaps left -- Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hassan yesterday said that it would be good to have a hitter like Thisara Perera down the order -- and the T20 experimentations can become a late-stage feeding ground for the more serious business of ODIs and Tests. The point of interest in the upcoming series will be what shape the elevens take for with youngsters like Mosaddek Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Mehedi Hasan Miraz, Sanjamul Islam, Nurul Hasan and Saifuddin jostling for a slice of the limelight.