Looming World Cup adds extra significance to 2018’s last ODI series

Mustafizur Rahman is congratulated by his team-mates AFP

ESPNcricinfo-The two teams playing in the last ODI series of 2018 have much left to do, even if it is just three matches. For Bangladesh, it will be an opportunity to finish another strong calendar year in this format, particularly since their resurrection in 2015. Their opponents in the three-match ODI series starting on Sunday are West Indies who are looking for a break from their 50-over woes of the last five years, which forced them to play the World Cup qualifier this year.

Bangladesh’s win percentage of 64.71 is the third-best by any team this year, behind England and India. It is nearly as good as their resurgent 2015 when they won 72.22% of their matches and were behind only Australia’s 78.95%.

The only two blemishes this year for Bangladesh, according to their ODI captain Mashrafe Mortaza, have been the two losses in finals: against Sri Lanka in the January tri-series at home and the Asia Cup final against India.

“We have a high win percentage this year barring the two tournament finals,” Mashrafe said on the eve of the series-opener in Dhaka. “It would have been ideal to win the Asia Cup final. We would like to finish the year well, especially given the challenges early next year. We have more chances to win when all departments click together, especially our batting. A lot depends on how this wicket behaves; if it helps the batsmen, it will be challenging for the bowlers. Judging the wicket would be important.”

The progress Bangladesh have made as an ODI side is apparent when you compare their current numbers with how they did between 2010 and 2014. During that period, they were among the bottom five teams in terms of win-loss ratio (0.59) and win percentage (36.14%). Since the start of 2015, they have been among the top five in both counts: 1.29 and 53.45%.

Compared to Bangladesh, West Indies’ form has run in the opposite direction, with their win percentage going from 40.40 in the 2010-2014 period to 27.27 since the start of 2015. They haven’t won an ODI series since since August 25, 2014, when they beat Bangladesh at home.

Rovman Powell, West Indies’ stand-in captain, believes he has seen signs of progress during their ODI series in India where they won one and tied another match in the five-match series.

“It is true that we haven’t won an ODI series in a long time,” Powell said. “The guys are upbeat and raring to go. No better opportunity to change it [than] in Bangladesh. We have played some lovely cricket in India but we didn’t get the results that we wanted. A few series before the World Cup, it will be good to get the series win under our belt. It will give us confidence going into the World Cup also.”

Perhaps West Indies need to take a leaf or two out of Bangladesh’s formula of greater stability by trusting a core group of senior players, while at the same time giving some of the younger players sustained opportunities to succeed and fail, so that at some point they become consistent performers. Bangladesh haven’t been entirely lucky finding those young players, but Mustafizur Rahman, Mehidy Hasan and, to some extent, Soumya Sarkar have been success stories in the last four years.

For starters, West Indies must ask more of their senior batsmen like Marlon Samuels, Kieran Powell and the returning Darren Bravo to give them good starts and ensure younger players like Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope can bat around them.

Bangladesh, meanwhile, will hope that their five senior players continue to lead in their individual areas, and let the likes of Mustafizur, Mehidy and Soumya thrive with an open mind.


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