Bangladesh dark days spur on the Black Caps
New Zealand's cricketers know only too well the perils of hitting a tour of Bangladesh slightly off their game.
Three years ago a low-key ODI tour became one of their darkest days as they were swept 4-0.
Well versed in recent history, coach Mike Hesson has stayed busy on the plotting and planning front since the England tour ended in June, as the team depart tomorrow on their two-month subcontinent odyssey, which also takes in Sri Lanka.
"Bangladesh is like the old Sri Lanka where everyone underestimated them and then they won a World Cup. At home, they're quite a different proposition, we all realise that," Hesson said.
"Recent history suggests we struggle over there so that places extra importance on our preparation. We're doing everything we can to hit the ground running."
Preparation for overseas test tours has been a sore point for this New Zealand team the past two years, under Hesson and predecessor John Wright. They suffered heavy defeats in the first tests of their past six series in Australia, West Indies, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and England, the latter after being competitive for the first three days then folding for 68 at Lord's.
Hesson believes they won't get caught short in Chittagong when the first of two tests starts on October 9.
Five of his test squad are currently touring India and Sri Lanka with New Zealand A, while skipper Brendon McCullum, Hamish Rutherford and Neil Wagner are also in India at the Champions League, albeit in the Twenty20 format.
The remaining squad members divided their time between Lincoln and Mt Maunganui, where the Merlin spin-bowling machine was on high revolution. Ground staff prepared pitches with couch grass which offer turn and bounce, in a bid to replicate subcontinent conditions for the batsmen, who are always a work in progress against quality spin.
"They've worked pretty hard and tried a few different clays and grasses and seem to have found something that's pretty similar to over there, but 20 degrees Celsius cooler.
"We're doing everything we can but it's nothing like being over there in the heat and actually playing games."
The team have nine days in Sri Lanka and hope to play two two-day warmup games before hitting Bangladesh. One three-day practice match is scheduled at the first test venue at Chittagong, but on recent tours early October matches have been wiped out by rain.
Hesson rates this a "huge tour", given New Zealand's test match struggles and the need to quickly get their world ranking of eight on an upward trend. Having shown promising signs at times against England, they're expected to beat Bangladesh and should do so, regardless of the conditions.
Bangladesh have gone backwards since Jamie Siddons departed as coach, are ranked below Zimbabwe and have a solitary win and 33 defeats from 39 tests at home. Their most recent home test series was in November last year, when they lost to West Indies by 77 runs and 10 wickets.
Uncapped pair Corey Anderson and Ish Sodhi are the only new faces in the New Zealand squad and both are in the mix for the top 11, with Hesson saying he had some selection head-scratchers.
Hesson confirmed Bruce Martin remains his No 1 spinner but, in conditions where damp morning conditions can assist turn, legspinner Sodhi will be seriously considered. That would mean all-rounder Anderson batting at seven and playing as a third seamer, McCullum and BJ Watling moving up a spot each and Dean Brownlie potentially missing out.
"He [Sodhi] is a work in progress but he's also good enough now if he gets the opportunity," Hesson said.
"With the skill set that he's got, he's not your traditional loopy legspinner, he's able to control the game as well and he's got good variations."
Senior paceman Tim Southee was named in the ODI squad only after recovering from ankle surgery, but Hesson said he might be considered for the second test on October 21.
For the series opener, that leaves Trent Boult, and a tight race between Neil Wagner, Doug Bracewell and Mark Gillespie, the latter two currently duelling in Sri Lanka.
"We've got four guys probably vying for three spots, and it could be two depending on whether we go with a couple of spinners," Hesson said.
Openers Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton remain after their battering from England's pacemen. A much different test awaits on slow pitches against defensive fields, with patience a key virtue. Batsmen would be encouraged to play positively and not "die in a hole" against the local spinners with fielders crowding the bat.
AT A GLANCE
Test squad: Brendon McCullum (c), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Dean Brownlie, Peter Fulton, Mark Gillespie, Tom Latham, Bruce Martin, Hamish Rutherford, Ish Sodhi, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.
ODI and T20 squad: McCullum (c), Anderson, Anton Devcich, Grant Elliott, Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, James Neesham, Rutherford, Tim Southee, Taylor, Williamson.
Oct 4-6: v Bangladesh Cricket Board XI, Chittagong
Oct 9-13: 1st test, Chittagong
Oct 21-25: 2nd test, Mirpur
Oct 29: 1st ODI, Mirpur
Oct 31: 2nd ODI, Mirpur
Nov 3: 3rd ODI, Fatullah
Nov 6: 1st T20, Sylhet
Nov 10: 1st ODI, Hambantota
Nov 12: 2nd ODI, Hambantota
Nov 16: 3rd ODI, Dambulla
Nov 19: 1st T20, Pallekele
Nov 21: 2nd T20, Pallekele