The spectacular and comprehensive manner of West Indies' defeats in the first two ODIs in Khulna have completely turned expectations surrounding the five-ODI series on its head. Sporting memory is short -- you are only as good as your last performance -- and so now the tourists occupy the space that the home side inhabited before the series. With the memory of Khulna fresh in mind, it is now hard to imagine how West Indies will get around to beating Bangladesh -- the overwhelmingly favourite result before the series.
Maybe it is time to refresh the memory. West Indies still do have batsmen like Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Smith, Kieron Pollard who can destroy bowling figures and the best laid plans. They also have a mystery bowler in Sunil Narine and good fast bowlers in Kemar Roach and Ravi Rampaul. The script was supposed to be thus -- the batting will run up 300-plus totals against an attack missing the bowler Shakib Al Hasan and the bowling would shoot out a batting side which was supposed to be lost if Tamim Iqbal did not fire at the start, not to mention flounder in the middle without Shakib the batsman.
West Indies scored only 199 batting first in the first match and lost by seven wickets, before losing by 160 runs in the second match after conceding 292 in the first innings in which Tamim scored only five. Not quite according to script. Of course the script might still be followed -- West Indies might still win the remaining three games and take the series as they were expected to. But one thing seems certain -- unlike Bangladesh who have seemed to find the resources whereby all members, even newcomers, execute plans well the West Indies need a strong show from two of their best batsmen -- Gayle and Samuels -- to overcome the hosts' spin threat.
In the first game they lost eight wickets for 97 runs to spin and as many wickets for 95 in the second. After the second match West Indies skipper Darren Sammy admitted that spin was a problem and that batsmen needed to settle in and score. What has happened so far is that the early exits of Gayle and Samuels have forced the middle-order -- Pollard, Smith, Darren Sammy and Devon Thomas -- to hit out and get out as they do not have the skills to milk the bowling for ones and twos when boundaries dry up.
Even if a batsman like Darren Bravo does settle in and play the spinners well, Bangladesh's batting display in the second match will ensure that the pressure is always there, as a middling total will probably not be enough against a home team in tune with the conditions and several players in good form.
So it is Gayle and Samuels who have to perform, and the world knows that on their day no side in world cricket can resist their prowess. Having done so well so far, Bangladesh will be buoyed by the knowledge that only one more match in which they neutralise the threat of Gayle and Samuels may be enough to win a memorable series.
It's still quite a task, but their focus on starting well and carrying on with the momentum, especially with the ball, has worked well so far. There is no reason why it will not happen at least once out of three tries.