For the Bangladesh cricket team, the World Cup in England and Wales looms large
Bangladesh might have succumbed to a 3-0 defeat to hosts New Zealand but it may have also answered some big questions as to which team to select for the World Cup to be held in England and Wales in May.
In conditions that will not be too dissimilar from that in England, a maiden win in New Zealand, or perhaps a bigger fight from the Tigers, would have held the team in better stead for the big event but some individual performances have answered a lot of questions for the selectors.
The 29-year old right-handed batsman played the first two ODIs and was the top scorer for his side on both occasions.
He found his team in dire straits at times with the top order collapsing to the pace and swing of the Kiwi pacers under favourable conditions and had to do a repair job with the tail to form respectable team totals.
His scores of 62 and 57 showed the type of resilience, courage, and technique required to take on quality fast bowling and then counter-attack.
The approach and application shown by the middle-order batter will be essential in England and it will certainly get him a spot in the World Cup if he stays fit. He was missed in the third and final ODI against the Kiwis as he sustained a leg injury and he will be out for about two weeks.
A lot of the talk leading up to the series has been about the reduction of the right-hander’s ban from international cricket to accommodate him into the national team.
With the management believing that his ability against pace bowling would be vital in the lower-middle order, his ban was reduced from six months to five so that he could take part in the three ODIs.
In the first game, he got out for 13, but he showed better promise in the second match, scoring 43.
He saved his best for last though as he scored his maiden ODI century in the third game. Although it was a losing cause, he displayed how effective and useful he could be in the lower-middle order.
He looked much more comfortable against the express pace of Lockie Ferguson -- who bowls in excess of 145kmph regularly -- compared to most of the batsmen, and showed just why so much faith had been placed in him by the selectors.
The 27-year-old will certainly be a vital cog in the Bangladeshi batting wheel at the World Cup when quick runs will be on the agenda during the death overs; he can also do a repair job if the top order fails, as he did in the second and third ODIs.
With a lot of pressure on him and the management to come up with a big performance in the series, the right-hander delivered just in time, but some questions still remain over his demeanour off the field and whether he can stave off controversy.
The right-arm fast bowler was a performer with not only the ball but also with the bat.
The 22-year old was in good form with the ball during the Bangladesh Premier League but he also showed a lot of tenacity and skill with the bat to battle the Kiwi pacers.
In his first game, he was a tad expensive with the ball but he formed an excellent partnership with Mithun to take the score from a dismal 131/7 to a more acceptable 215/8, scoring 41 runs.
In the second game, he was a miss with both bat and ball and might have been dropped for the final ODI, with many within the cricketing fraternity calling for fast bowler Rubel Hossain’s inclusion.
But as fate would have it, he retained his spot due to Mithun getting injured and his best all-round performance came in the last match. He first bowled with immense control and intelligence and was arguably the most impressive Bangladeshi bowler, conceding just 48 runs in his 10 overs.
He took the key wicket of in-form New Zealand batsman Martin Guptill, though a lot of credit has to be given to a magnificent fielding effort from Tamim Iqbal at long-on. Later on, when batting, he scored 44 runs to help form another important partnership with Sabbir.
His bowling, even though not express pace, along with his batting ability, will be handy in England and he should definitely make the team.
In the end, Captain Mashrafe bin Mortaza and the Bangladesh team management might have found three important players for them when the World Cup comes.
Aside from the big five -- Mashrafe, Tamim, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, and Mahmudullah -- there are other places for grabs and Mithun, Sabbir, and Saifuddin have all enhanced their reputations and answered some big questions as to how the team will look in England.
With a lot of expectations as a result of the quarter-final finish in the 2015 World Cup and the semi-final finish in the 2017 Champions Trophy, the Tigers may have found three players that can play an important part in meeting those expectations at the big event.
Shahnoor Rabbani works at the Dhaka Tribune and hosts Matha Noshto Cricket on Radio Shadhin.