The Bangladesh T20 cricket team leads its four-match T20 series against Zimbabwe 2-0, but the Tigers are now looking at making major changes to their side heading into the potential series-clinching match at Khulna on Wednesday. Bangladesh will lose three top players, who have been ruled out if the remaining two matches, the team's last chances to settle on their best XI ahead of both the Asia Cup T20 tournament in February and the ICC World T20 Cup in March.
Bangladesh plays their first match of the World T20 tournament just seven weeks after wrapping up the current Zimbabwe T20 series, when the Tigers take on the Netherlands in Dharamsala, India, on March 9.
But first, Bangladesh will host the five-team Asia Cup, to be played in T20 format this year, from February 24 to March 6. The Asia Cup features all four subcontinent cricket powerhouse teams — India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in addition to the hosts — as well as one qualifier to emerge from a single round robin tournament with Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Oman and United Arab Emirates competing for that fifth spot.
Missing from the third and fourth T20 matches against Zimbabwe will be veteran wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim, who suffered a hamstring injury in the second T20 game against Zimbabwe on Sunday, as well as 20-year-old left-arm fast bowling sensation Mustafizur Rahman, who was pulled out of the series by the Bangladesh team selectors in order to rest him for the upcoming back-to-back international tournaments.
Another member of the Bangladesh bowling corps, 26-year-old Al-Amin Hossain, is also being held out for rest by the selectors.
"We are without two quick bowlers in Mustafizur and Al-Amin so we will have to replace them. Mushfiqur is also injured so there have to be three changes in any case," said Bangladesh T20 Captain Mashrafe Mortaza.
Called up to the squad will be 20-year-old middle-order batsman Mosaddek Hossain, who will be making his international debut against Zimbabwe. The choice came as a surprise, mainly because Mosaddek is regarded as primarily a long-format cricket player, who has shown noteworthy potential in the four-day version of the game.
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But the youngster says he is not worried about whether he can translate his skill set from the long-form game to the more intense, 20-over version.
"Although I have scored runs in longer-version recently, I have also played quite a few limited-over matches in the premier league and also for the age-level teams," Mosaddek said on Monday. "What's more, my average suggests that I will be able to cope up with the T20 format and I am confident."Check out highlights of the second T20 Bangladesh vs. Zimbabwe T20 match in the video below, courtesy of Willow TV.
With all-rounder Shuvagata Hom also dropped from the T20 side for the remainder of the Zimbabwe series, the Bangladesh selectors have also called up another 20-year-old bowler, Taskin Ahmed, who has played three T20 matches for the national team, but none since last April 24.
Taskin is also a veteran of 14 One Day International matches, including six of the seven ODI matches played by Bangladesh in the 2015 ICC World Cup.
All-rounder Muktar Ali and pacer Mohammad Shahid will also join the T20 squad for the final two matches in the Zimbabwe series.
After splitting two T20 matches with Zimbabwe in November, Bangladesh won the first match of the current series by four wickets and followed that win with a 42-run victory in the second game.
But Zimbabwe Coach Dav Whatmore believes that the changes in the Bangladesh side give his team a chance to get back into the series.
"They will be a little weak, given they won't have Mushfiq and Mustafizur and we need to make use of that," Whatmore said on Sunday. "We are preparing the team in that way. We are looking to bounce back playing good cricket in the next two matches."
The Bangladesh vs. Zimbabwe T20 cricket series resumes on January 20 with the hosts able to clinch the series with a victory. The concluding game in the four-match set is set for January 22 at Sheikh Abu Naser Stadium, Khulna, site of the entire series.
[All Photos By A.M. Ahad/Associated Press]