Bangladesh head coach Steve Rhodes believes his side will gladly embrace their tag as underdogs ahead of their three-match ODI series against New Zealand.
The visitors enter the series on the back of a strong run of form in the 50-over format, having won their most recent series against West Indies 2-1, while also enjoying a run to the final of last year’s Asia Cup. The Black Caps on the other hand, enter the series having just suffered a 4-1 defeat at home to India.
Nevertheless, Bangladesh have never won an ODI against New Zealand in New Zealand, and will be without the services of their key all-rounder, Shakib Al Hasan, who suffered a finger injury in the final of the Bangladesh Premier League.
“I don’t know about the whole tour. But certainly at the start and the ODIs, he [Shakib] won’t be available,” Rhodes told reporters on Tuesday.
“A clean break so you know, not a lot of complications – we’ve just got to see how it heals. [It’s] a big blow to us. There are not many Shakib Al Hasans around the world.”
Despite the loss of Shakib, Rhodes believes Bangladesh, ranked No.7 in the ICC ODI team rankings, could still spring a surprise upon the hosts.
“It’s a really big task. It doesn’t mean we can’t win,” added Rhodes. “I think we have played some excellent cricket in one-day internationals recently, beating the West Indies a couple of times. We should take a lot of heart from that. Coming out here against New Zealand, we know it’s going to be very difficult – we’re very realistic. We quite like being underdogs. We can surprise a few people being an underdog. I think New Zealand know they’ve still got to play some very good cricket to beat us.”
Bangladesh will most likely look back to their victory over New Zealand in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, a tournament that saw the Tigers reach the semi-finals stage, as a source of inspiration for them to cause an upset.
“Yeah, a lot of them bring back that memory,” said Rhodes on Bangladesh’s famous five-wicket win in Cardiff. “I am sure New Zealanders do too and that’s probably an inspiration for them too. But one thing about this squad that we have moving forward for the World Cup as well, it is vastly experienced now.”
Rhodes also acknowledged that while Bangladesh will be looking to pull off a series win, the three upcoming matches will also serve as vital preparation for the 50-over World Cup set to begin in May.
“Any international series you play – it’s about that series. But ultimately there’s something behind it. If it means we can learn a little bit more about our players for the World Cup then I think that’s a good thing.
“You don’t play too many international series and we’ve got to try and win the thing, but also I’d love to find out about some of our batters, some of our bowlers – and the selectors I’m sure – regarding the World Cup. We’ll be looking for some guys to cement their places here.”