The international season kicks off on 9 Oct with the 1st ODI of NZ's tour of Bangladesh and the 1st test of Aus's tour of India.
However, you would hardly know that there was anything on other than the Aus–Ind grudge series. Jeez, even the Eng–Ind series over a month away is getting more coverage.
So it is up to us to provide some shallow analysis of what the tour to Bangladesh is about.
The Black Caps are currently in Bangladesh for a 3-ODI, 2-test series. This is New Zealand's second tour to Bangladesh and the fourth series the two teams have played against each other. To date, there have been simply nothing in the way of fireworks between the two teams. New Zealand have won every full international by wide margins.
For Bangladesh, this series is the highlight of their home season. In fact, this series is their home season. No one else is visiting. They will be touring South Africa themselves, but they will be done with international cricket for this season by the end of the year.
The Bangladesh stocks have been hit by losses to the ICL, and much has been made about the fact that their list of probables includes six rookies. In my assessment however, while they will be hurt, Bangladesh will not be devastated by the ICL defections, and six rookies in a list of 24 isn't all that dramatic.
The confidence out of Bangladesh is ... mixed – "The players are charged up to play good cricket but I don't know why," according to one. Their hope is to win one match out of the five. Pfft. Fat chance. While anything can happen in cricket, Bangladesh is just too weak and New Zealand, for all our struggles against stronger teams, do not lose to weak teams. If Bangladesh wins a match in this series, it will be a major upset.
In fact, I'm going to give you the numbers. A NZ cricket fan expressing confidence his team will not lose has no credibility, so I'm going to have to prove my point with facts and figures.
Against proper competition (i.e. test-playing nations apart from Zimbabwe), Bangladesh has won 6 out of 119 ODIs. Their chance of losing a single ODI is therefore about 95%. The chance of losing three in a row is a product of the chances of losing each of them – about 85%.
In tests, Bangladesh has failed to win a single test against this competition after 45 attempts. Being as fair as possible, let's assume the chance of this happening is only 50%, so we're assuming Bangladesh has been neither lucky nor unlucky to get this result. A quick calculation on the back of an envelope equates this with a 98.5% chance of losing a single test, or a 97% chance of losing two tests.
Giving a grand chance of not winning a single match in this tour of 82.5% or nearly 5 to 1.
Players to watch: Mohammad Ashraful, with more test centuries than the rest of the squad combined ... in fact, the only current player to have scored test centuries – cripes! ... Ashraful is the great hope of Bangladesh and surely the rock that any success will have to be built on; Shahadat Hossain, Bangladesh's most penetrative bowler; Enamul Haque jnr, Dav Whatmore's protege and the other left-arm spinner in the competition; Imrul Kayes and Shamsur Rahman, two rookie batsmen looking to make good on the opportunities offered by the ICL defections
For New Zealand the equation is quite different: "hiding to nothing".
The Black Caps have to win every game or the tour will be a failure. And when they do win, what would they have gained? The ODI wins will push us up to no. 2 in the ICC rankings, but beating the 9th ranked team to go ahead of a team (England) we comprehensively beat a few months ago shows how bunk the ranking system is. Will the tour provide preparation for the Aus series in November? Well, it didn't work out that way last time.
Players to watch: For the individual players, there may be something more interesting riding on this tour. For several players – Redmond, Elliot, Flynn, O'Brien – this tour will be something of a second chance to stake a claim for further selection. A failure here could at least raise doubts about their selection in the rest of the season. This is of course Jesse Ryder's first appearance in a test squad. You'll recall that Ryder scored 196 ODI runs in February at a SR of 100, showing he has the stuff for the mid-length version of the game. If he did exactly the same in the tests we'd be pretty pleased, but what we really want to see is that he as a test game to complement his limited-over game.