Having signed with Bangladesh earlier this month, Steve Rhodes is coaching an international team for the first time and he does not want to be caught napping. The former England wicketkeeper has been scouring the web for videos of the players he will be training and the support staff he will be working with just to know what everybody looks like.
There was more nuanced work to do on Wednesday, though, with Rhodes leading a camp to help prepare the players for a full tour of the West Indies starting on June 27. “Everything is new,” he said. “I don’t know too much about the players, but I’ve been checking on the internet regularly, looking them up on YouTube – as well as highlights – getting to know some faces, of the support staff as well. All a bit of a rush to be honest, but now we’re on the eve of going away to the Caribbean, and honestly that’s what I’m looking forward to doing best – which is helping support the team and improve them as cricketers.”
Rhodes, 54, expected West Indies to prepare pitches with pace and bounce, and said he would make Bangladesh practice accordingly. “You will have watched the Sri Lanka series. The pitches are currently bouncing, and going to potentially suit their bowlers,” he said. “My hunch is the pitches are going to be pretty similar. So we will try to incorporate our practices with bouncier, greener wickets in the three days of practice we have.”
Bangladesh do play a tour match ahead of the two Tests but Rhodes felt conditions in that game may not be challenging enough. “I’m pretty sure the West Indian practice wickets will be a bit like Bangladesh wickets [without pace and bounce]. We need to make sure our batsmen, allrounders, and fast bowlers, are ready to face some quick bowling on bouncy pitches. West Indies are in a good place right now, so if that makes us an underdog, then fantastic. Let the underdog win.”
Rhodes had signed Gabriel when he had coached Worcestershire and acknowledged that the fast bowler was in top form, but was confident the Bangladesh batsmen could do well. “Test matches, they’re not complicated,” he said. “In trying to win a Test match, you need a good start. There are ways of winning without that, but it’s not rocket science. It’s about getting out of the traps, building on getting a good score, or bowling the opposition out. Really, it’s about not letting the opposition back in the game.”
Rhodes identified Mustafizur Rahman‘s absence through injury as the biggest challenge for Bangladesh. “I think that there’s no going away from the fact that losing Mustafizur for the first Test, maybe the full series, will play [on our minds] daily,” he said. “But the four quicks who are going – what a wonderful opportunity for them. The depth of fast bowling is something we want to try and improve, and if the Fizz is one of four or five of those bowlers, then we’ll be in a great place. Our spinners are world class. They may not get the purchase off the wicket, but the footholes will help as the game progresses.”
Rhodes has played 11 Tests and nine ODIs and is known for his talent-spotting skills. He had been in charge of Worcestershire since 2006, having played for them from 1985 to 2004, and was looking forward to applying all that he had learnt on this stint with Bangladesh.
“It’s a great opportunity for me, personally,” he said. “I’ve cut my teeth in county cricket, and the England Lions programme and the England team when we came to Bangladesh. I’ve done a long apprenticeship in that place, and I’m looking forward now to the challenge of international coaching. I’ve played cricket and coached for a long time, and whatever team you’re involved in, you’re wholeheartedly, 100% putting all your efforts into winning. If that’s against England in a World Cup game – then it’s fantastic. It’s time for Steve Rhodes to become a ‘Tiger’.”