Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes on Thursday likened visiting Zimbabwe cricket team with a wounded animal after their recent hammering in South Africa and expected them to give the hosts a tough competition in the three-match series.
Zimbabwe, who lost every game in South Africa, are in a 13-match losing streak against Bangladesh in Bangladesh but Rhodes suggested that they have every quality to turn the tide against the home side in the series starting on Sunday.
‘Zimbabwe got a beating in South Africa. No team likes that. I expect a wounded animal,’ Rhodes told reporters at Mirpur. ‘They will be fighting for their pride and I expect tough opposition. They may turn it on against us after the kick-back from South Africa.
‘We are very guarded but we are also very determined to try and play our best cricket. We know we are two players light. Our process will be to make sure that we do our duty well. We don’t have to worry about the opposition,’ he added.
Bangladesh will be without key players Sakib al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal during the series but Rhodes said it could be a blessing in disguise for the home side as they could now test the depth of their squad.
‘I see it as a real positive,’ Rhodes said.
‘It is opportunity for other people. If those guys grasp their chance, it would show we have depth in our squad. If there are competition for places, people will always try perform at their best. It is a healthy thing. We want depth,’ he added.
The 54-year old former English cricketer was highly impressed with Bangladesh’s spin bowling department, who had an excellent performance during the last couple of series.
Rhodes suggested Mehedi Hasan to take more responsibilities in the absence of Sakib, although he acknowledged that the 31-year old cricketer was irreplaceable.
‘Sakib is an unbelievably talented spinner, batsman, fielder and tactician and he can’t be replaced. We have to make up in other areas in the team. There will be a bit more responsibility on Mehedi [Hasan].
‘Apu [Nazmul Islam] is a quality spin bowler. He has shown that in the shortest format and we know that he can do well in the ODI format. If Apu plays, we have two quality spinners. Riyad [Mahmudullah] is a far better bowler than people think. Fazle [Rabbi], if he plays, can also bowl some overs,’ he added.
Rhodes, who already passed five months as Bangladesh head coach, would like to fix someone at number seven position, who could do both batting and bowling and hoped to sort out the matter in this series.
‘I think No 7 is absolutely crucial in a good cricket team. It is massive psychologically if we have one batsman after another coming out. It also means you can chase well. England have a long batting line-up right down to No 9 and 10.
Ariful Haque, who was in Bangladesh squad for the Asia Cup but did not play any game, is tipped to take the slot.
‘He [Ariful Haque] is another batsman who bowls. He made double-century in the first NCL game, which is fantastic. He, Soumya [Sarkar] and Saifuddin [Mohammad] are all the same type of players. Ariful is definitely a player we would like to see. If we don’t test them out, how do we know if they are any good or not?’ he added.
The second and third matches of the series will be held in Chattogram on October 24 and 26 respectively.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Cricket