Bangladesh Cricket News: Zimbabwe T20 Series Preview — Tigers Aim To Build On Landmark 2015

The Bangladesh national cricket team looks to improve in 2016 on what was a landmark year for the Tigers in 2015 when they take on Zimbabwe in an unusual four-T20 match series to open the new year, starting on January 15 in Khulna, Bangladesh. Zimbabwe will not be playing any One Day International matches or Tests during their brief stint in Bangladesh, as both teams prepare for the T20 World Cup, to be held in India starting starting March 16 in India.

Bangladesh will also feature a new-look squad for the Zimbabwe series, calling up three uncapped players to make their national team debuts on the 14-man squad announced for the first two T20 matches. In all, five Tigers players gave been dropped from the T20 team, with five new faces — new at least to the T20 squad — coming on board.

The new faces include 19-year-old left-arm pacer Abu Hider Rony, making his international debut for Bangladesh thanks to his sensational run in the Bangladesh Premier League tournament that ran in November and December.

Bowling for the Comilla Victorians, who won the third BPL championship, Hider nearly led the league with an impressive 21 wickets, just one behind Kevon Cooper of Trindad and the BPL runner-up Barisal Bulls. The teenager, who won't turn 20 until February 14, is considered one of the brightest prospects for what appears to be a bright future for Bangladesh.

Bangladesh vs. Zimbabwe Cricket T20 series 2016
Bangladesh and Zimbabwe split two T20 matches last year [Photo via Bangladesh Cricket Board]In 2015, the Tigers suddenly emerged as one of the world's most formidable cricket teams, at least in the ODI format. The Tigers scored ODI series victories over international powerhouses India, South Africa and Pakistan, as well as posting tree wins in the ICC World Cup in February and March, putting Bangladesh in the quarterfinals of cricket's most prestigious tournament for the first time.

Check out the video below for an exciting look back at the historic year in Bangladesh international cricket.

But Bangladesh was less successful in the fast-paced 20-overs format, playing just five T20 International matches all year, dropping three, including one in a two-game series split against Zimbabwe to close out the year in November.

The Tigers also dropped both T20 matches against South Africa, while winning a single contest over Pakistan.

Also making his international debut for Bangladesh in the T20 series against Zimbabwe, 22-year-old wicketkeeper and righty batsman Nurul Hassan, whose selection took most experts by surprise and was apparently based mainly on his performance in domestic first-class matches, rather than win T20 after he turned in a rather mediocre run in the latest Bangladesh Premier League.

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Nurul is expected to slot into the Number Seven spot in the Bangladesh T20 order, a position with which national selectors have not been satisfied for some time, according to reports in the Bangladesh media.

Also making his T20 International debut will be sometime Bangladesh international Shuvagata Hom Chowdhury, another mild surprise given his batting average on just 10.4 over nine BPL innings, while not doing much better with the ball, claiming only five wickets.

Two veterans, Soumya Sarkar and Shakib Al Hasan, make their returns to the T20 squad, while Liton Das, Nasir Hossain, Jubair Hossain, Anamul Haque, and Kamrul Islam Rabbi will sit out the Zimbabwe series.

Bangladesh vs. Zimbabwe Cricket T20 series 2016
Mushfiqur Rahim (on ground) and Mustafizur Rahman of Bangladesh in a 2015 match against Zimbabwe (Photo by A.M. Ahad/Associated Press)

Here is the protected Bangladesh squad for the Zimbabwe T20 cricket series: Tamim Iqbal, Mahmudullah, Shakib Al Hasan (Vice-Captain), Mashrafe Mortaza (captain), Al-Amin Hossain, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Shuvagata Hom, Arafat Sunny, Sabbir Rahman, Mushfiqur Rahman, Mustafizur Rahman, Nurul Hasan, Abu Hider.

And here is the expected Zimbabwe squad: Elton Chigumbura, Malcolm Waller, Peter Moor, Sikandar Raza, Graeme Cremer, Hamilton Masakadza, Wellington Masakadza, Richmond Mutumbami, Sean Williams, Chamu Chibhabha, Neville Madziva, Luke Jongwe, Taurai Muzarabani, Tendai Chisoro, Vusi Sibanda, Brian Vitori.

The visitors from Africa, making their second trip to Bangladesh in three months, experienced a disastrous 2015, especially in the T20 format where they played 14 matches but won only two — including one over Zimbabwe on November 15.

The new year hasn't started out much better for the Zimbabwe T20 team, losing both matches of a two-match series to lightly-regarded Afghanistan on January 8 and January 10.

But Zimbabwe were playing that Afghanistan series without three key players — Sean Williams, Vusi Sibanda and left-arm fast bowler Brian Vitori. All three will return to the squad that travels to Bangladesh later this week, hoping to at least avoid a four-match "Bangla Wash" and get their new cricket year on track.

[Featured Photo By Matt King / Getty Images]