Eight days between matches can make most sides edgy and restless. Not Bangladesh Under-19s, who have enjoyed their time in Queenstown, finding a balance between training in the morning and going out to soak in the local culture in the evenings. They have also been trying their hand at a number of sports activities – except those of the extreme kind Queenstown is so famous for.
They beat Namibia and Canada quite convincingly, but were undone by bounce and a fiery England attack in their final group game. It’s this adjusting to conditions that all Bangladesh sides that have toured New Zealand haven’t quite managed to do, which a record of one win and 21 losses across formats indicates.
This is exactly why the current group prepared early and arrived in New Zealand 15 days before the start of the tournament. Damien Wright, their Australian coach, who has previously worked with the senior New Zealand side (bowling coach), Hobart Hurricanes (head coach), Cricket Tasmania (senior assistant coach), Cricket Victoria (bowling coach) and Melbourne Stars (assistant/bowling coach), has tried to inculcate condition-specific training, which he hopes to reap the rewards for eventually.
Time off leading into the game has allowed them the time to regroup. “We had a disappointing game by our standards against England. We had a lot of time to reassess and have a think about conditions and how we’re playing,” Wright said. “The eight days have been huge for us. If we had to keep going and play one or two days after that game, the mood could have been different. We are grateful for the time we’ve had, we’re in good spirits, have enjoyed really good training days and the boys are confident going into the game. You have to have that belief and we’re against the favourites, so you have play them eventually.”
With Queenstown enjoying some of its hottest weather, the surface, which is the same as the one where Lloyd Pope took a record 8 for 35 to send England packing, will become a talking point. Bangladesh are, expectedly, spin heavy, and will relish bowling on a surface that could come closest to resembling Mirpur. This could bring their spinners Afif Hossain and Tipu Sultan into the game.
“The bounce will be a little different compared to where we came from at Lincoln or where India are coming from [in Mount Manganui],” Wright said. “That will be the element of surprise, we’re hoping. That was one of the major areas where we didn’t do well against England. I’m grateful we played that game here and will use it to our advantage for sure.
“We’re also lucky to have a fantastic analyst in Salauddin, and he’s done a lot of research on the Indian team. You must do that. I won’t say too much about the last game here (Australia v England), but a legspinner (Pope) took 8 for 35 and bowled a lot of wrong ‘uns. You need to know if you haven’t played against the opposition a lot, you need to look at them. We’ve certainly looked at them, there are a few dangerous players in there. It’s about us making sure we prepare as well as we can and get our A games in order.”
As much as the focus has been on preparing correctly, Bangladesh are hoping to draw inspiration from their win over India at the Under-19 Asia Cup at Kuala Lumpur in November. Pinak Ghosh, who made a half-century there, leads the batting charge, even though he’s yet to hit top form. Friday could be potentially a big game for him, as it would for the rest of the side.
“Yes, it was a huge thing for the boys, to know that they can compete and beat them,” Wright said. “India had about five to six players missing in that game, but still, you play against the team you’re up against on the day. We will be going in with no fear.”
As with any Bangladesh team, there’s the pressure of living up to expectation, which Wright wants to shield his unit from. “The guys know there’s huge support for them back home,” he said. “I’ve tried to downplay that as much as possible, there’s enough pressure on these young fellows playing in the World Cup, so you don’t want to be worrying about what’s happening back home.
“I, as the coach, try and take the pressure away from them and let them express themselves. I’ve to do that and let them play freely. If you do that, you’ll play good cricket. There’s pressure on them anyway, certainly from back home, from various sections of people, and we all understand that’s coming. But we’ll try and have a bit of fun on Friday.
“As long as we put in our full effort, ‘theek acche.’ That’s the main goal. Enjoy the occasion, give it your best and hold your head high.”