St. George's (Grenada) (AFP) - West Indies and Bangladesh commence a three-match One-Day International series at the Queen's Park Stadium in Grenada on Wednesday with the home side heavily favoured to extend the tourists' miserable record in 2014.
Despite several encouraging performances in a 95-run win in their lone warm-up fixture against a Grenada XI on Sunday, Bangladesh will be hard-pressed to challenge a Caribbean side brimming with big-name international players, all of whom will be match fit given their participation in the just-concluded second season of the Caribbean Premier League T20 franchise tournament.
This campaign, Bangladesh's third tour of the region outside of involvement in the 2007 World Cup and 2010 World T20, is their first trip away from home this year and captain Mushfiqur Rahim will be hoping a return to the scene of the side’s greatest triumphs can somehow inspire a transformation from the atrocious form displayed over the past eight months.
Facing a home team stripped of all its top players in the midst of a bitter dispute between the West Indies Cricket Board and the West Indies Players Association in 2009, Bangladesh swept the Test series 2-0 and the ODI’s 3-0 with all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan outstanding as both player and captain.
Now though, the West Indies are at full strength with the likes of devastating opener Chris Gayle and power-hitting middle-order player Kieron Pollard keen to help their team develop a winning momentum in the countdown to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in six months’ time.
Mystery spinner Sunil Narine appears to carry the greatest threat to Bangladesh in the limited-over formats but they may also find the pace of Kemar Roach and Ravi Rampaul, together with the awkward bounce extracted by gangling fast-medium bowler Jason Holder to be more than a handful, even on batting-friendly surfaces.
Compounding the tourists' challenge is the absence of Shakib, who is serving a six-month suspension from all cricket imposed by the Bangladesh Cricket Board last month over a disciplinary matter.
In their last 21 competitive international matches spread across the game’s three formats, Bangladesh’s only successes have come against Afghanistan and Nepal during the qualifying phase of the World T20 in Chittagong last March. Their only meeting with the West Indies in 2014 before this series was at the same tournament with the side skippered by Darren Sammy romping to a 73-run win.
Sammy will again lead the team for the lone T20 fixture in St Kitts next week, but the responsibility of captaincy in the ODI campaign, which includes two matches in Grenada and a day/night encounter at the Warner Park venue in St Kitts, falls on the shoulders of Dwayne Bravo, the flamboyant all-rounder who has so far struggled to achieve consistent success since replacing Sammy at the helm of the team in the 50-over format a year ago.
West Indies have won just eight of 20 completed ODI’s in the 14 months since Bravo succeeded Sammy as captain following the 2013 Champions Trophy in England.
Bangladesh will look to opener Tamim Iqbal and off-spinning all-rounder Mahmudullah, who had scores of 91 and 78 respectively in the match against Grenada to provide some batting solidity, while Mushfiqur will also be expected to contribute significantly in a side that has batting talent but often lacks the determination and application to build formidable totals.
In the bowling department, the experience of Mashrafa Mortaza’s medium pace and left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak will be essential to curbing the Caribbean batsmen’s pursuit of big scores.
West Indies (from): Chris Gayle, Lendl Simmons, Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo (captain), Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy, Denesh Ramdin, Jason Holder, Nikita Miller, Kemar Roach, Sunil Narine, Ravi Rampaul.
Bangladesh (from): Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Anamul Haque, Mithun Ali, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mominul Haque, Nasir Hossain, Shamsur Rahman, Mahmudullah, Taskin Ahmed, Mashrafe Mortaza, Rubel Hossain, Sohag Gazi, Abdur Razzak, Al-Amin Hossain.