DHAKA: The return of Mushfiqur Rahim, who missed the T20I series against Australia for not fulfilling quarantine requirements, will be a massive boost for Bangladesh as they take on an under-strength New Zealand in the opening tie of the five-match T20I series beginning at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium, Mirpur later on Wednesday.
Rahim return should fix the middle-order issues that plagued the side in the previous series against Australia, which they won 4-1, as Bangladesh look at the series against New Zealand as a dress rehearsal for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup in October-November this year.
Bangladesh have been in great T20I form lately, first winning 2-1 away from home against Zimbabwe and then routing Australia 4-1 at home. With just five T20I matches to go before they fly to Oman for Round 1 of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021, Bangladesh have one last opportunity to fine-tune their plans.
New Zealand have a massive challenge ahead of them on docile tracks in Bangladesh. Keeping player welfare in mind, the Blackcaps have named an inexperienced squad with Tom Latham standing in as captain.
New Zealand have already named their squad for the T20 World Cup, and none of the players from the Bangladesh tour will be a part of the global tournament. Despite that, players will be keen to make a mark, with a men's T20 World Cup also set to be played next year in Australia.
New Zealand emerged 3-0 victors when Bangladesh toured them for a three-match series in March-April earlier this year.
In the first game, New Zealand posted a mammoth total of 210/3 on the back of half-centuries from Devon Conway (92*) and Will Young (53). Ish Sodhi's four-for broke the back of the Bangladesh batting line-up in their chase as they fell short by 66 runs.
Glenn Phillips was the star for the Blackcaps in the rain-curtailed second game with a Player of the Match-winning 31-ball 58* that set the visitors a target of 171 in 16 overs. Though Bangladesh gave more of a fight this time, they still lost by 28 runs on the DLS method.
The final game too was a truncated affair, with the match reduced to a 10-over-a-side encounter. Batting first yet again, a blitzkrieg from openers Martin Guptill (44 of 19 balls) and Finn Allen (71 off 29 balls) propelled the Kiwis to 141/4 in 10 overs. Bangladesh were bowled out for just 76 in their response as the Black Caps completed a whitewash.
Tom Latham, the New Zealand stand-in skipper, told icc-cricket.com that, "It is pretty easy to motivate yourself when playing for the country. I personally haven't had a lot of opportunities in T20s, so it is exciting. Even for the other guys. Most of the guys have played T20s for New Zealand but probably not as much as they would like to. We have to enjoy ourselves out there and stick to a brand of cricket that we believe can be successful in these conditions. Our goal is to win the series."
Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo said, "Winning the series is important. We are playing at home, so we want to continue gaining confidence before the World Cup. In terms of areas of improvement, batting conditions have been really difficult. It would be great if we got some bigger scores, but that depends on what conditions allow you to do. I think bowling confidence and getting into a winning habit is also very important, so we must make sure we continue to do that."