Cricket World Cup: Bangladesh head coach Steve Rhodes looks to upset England after turbulent year

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Christchurch terror attacks put cricket in context - Rhodes
ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019
Dates: 30 May - 14 July, 2019
Live coverage: Ball-by-ball commentary on Test Match Special, plus text commentary, clips and highlights on the BBC Sport website

Bangladesh are preparing to face hosts England in the World Cup on Saturday, having started the tournament impressively in beating South Africa and pushing fancied New Zealand close in a thrilling finish on Wednesday.

There is nothing to suggest the players had a traumatic experience recently but it is less than three months since most of the squad witnessed an attack which resulted in 51 deaths.

For head coach Steve Rhodes, who took charge of Bangladesh in June 2018, a daunting challenge in a new country and unfamiliar conditions became even more complex when his team came "within minutes" of the Christchurch mosques attack in March.

The former wicketkeeper-batsman, who played 11 Tests and nine one-day internationals for England, has found himself part of a group coming to terms with witnessing horror and supporting each other in the process.

"Often in the evening, there'll be five, six, seven guys together in a room just chatting away - communicating things with each other, sharing their thoughts about that event," Rhodes, 54, told BBC Sport.

"They have tried to help each other through it, and you know, I've got a lot of respect and admiration for the way they have pulled through.

"There's a lot of smiley faces at the moment, and going back to that day in Christchurch, I was thinking, 'how do we get a team back together after?'

"But they have done it."

His players now have the chance to continue that recovery by springing an upset against Rhodes' native country in Cardiff.

Christchurch 'shock and horror' unites Tigers

On 15 March, Bangladesh had just completed their final training session before the final Test of a three-match series against New Zealand at Christchurch's Hagley Oval.

A short walk from the picturesque ground was the city's Al Noor mosque.

After captain Mahmudullah's news conference had overran, 17 of the squad and support staff took the team bus for the short journey to attend Friday prayers.

It felt like any other day before a Test. Except it wasn't.

As they stepped off the team bus and approached the mosque, gunfire could be heard from inside.

Unfolding a mere 50 yards away was a mass shooting, as two mosques were targeted.

Steve Rhodes speaks to the media after Bangladesh returned to Dhaka from Christchurch
Rhodes and the Bangladesh team were evacuated to Dhaka after the Christchurch mosques attack in March

As the shooting continued, the group fled back to the team bus where they were initially held.

At the time, ESPN Cricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent Mohammad Isam reported how opener Tamim Iqbal called him on his mobile phone to try and tell him what was happening and what they could see.

"The players were breaking down; they had seen way too much in the 15 minutes they were held up in the bus, there was no security because it is such a peaceful country," Isam said.

"The players heard shots being fired, they saw people tumbling out of the gates and ducked under the bus."

Eventually they left the bus and retreated on foot back to Hagley Oval, where Rhodes was among a few who had remained after training.

The touring party were secured in lockdown, first at the ground and then their hotel, before flying back to Dhaka and their families the following day after the Test was cancelled.

Rhodes said "cricket certainly got put into sharp focus" by what happened in Christchurch. Counselling services have been made available but not widely taken up.

"Have the players got over this? I think they're getting there and they feel safe over here and with the security we've got," Rhodes added.

"I know that the right thing to do is just to crack on and get on with cricket and that's what the boys have done."

Rhodes said the World Cup is a "a distraction" from the "shock and horror" of what the players witnessed in New Zealand.

"These guys have got no agendas, they're just cricketers who want to play in a World Cup and do as well as they can," he said.

"Hopefully they can win a World Cup - that's their dream.

"That's at the forefront of their minds at the moment and thankfully the events in Christchurch are now slowly, slowly going away from their thoughts."

Rhodes has been able to draw on previous conversations with International Cricket Council match referee Chris Broad, England head coach Trevor Bayliss and Warwickshire sport director Paul Farbrace about their experiences of the attacks on the Sri Lanka team bus in Pakistan in 2009.

"I actually spoke to those three about those events in Pakistan before what happened in Christchurch and it's very sad," he said.

"It's also sad to see what happened recently in Sri Lanka on Easter day as well. That's another wonderful cricket-playing country that's going through some struggles.

"It's a worry for the whole world."

Rhodes' chance for redemption?

Steve Rhodes and Moeen Ali
Rhodes worked with England all-rounder Moeen Ali while at Worcestershire

Such experiences are a world away from what Rhodes might have expected when he was director of cricket at Worcestershire, having spent most of his life at the west Midlands club as player and coach.

However, in January 2018, he was sacked by Worcestershire after an investigation into his conduct.

It was reported he delayed informing the county about the arrest of all-rounder Alex Hepburn, who was later charged with two counts of rape in December 2017.

In April, Hepburn, 23, was convicted of one of those charges and jailed for five years.

Worcestershire's investigation also cost Rhodes the chance to coach England at the Under-19 World Cup after he was stood down by the England and Wales Cricket Board in early 2018.

He took time out to consider his options after his 33-year association with Worcestershire came to an end. In May 2018 he was named as one of six scouts by England national selector Ed Smith.

But, soon after, Bangladesh offered him a two-year deal to become head coach.

Rhodes' first year in the job has seen him guide the Tigers to their first piece of one-day silverware after they won the recent tri-series against Ireland and West Indies.

"Bangladesh have given me this opportunity and I'm grateful to them," he said. "Hopefully I can play my part, albeit very small. The players are the key ones and the important ones.

"We'll all play our little part from the masseur all the way through to the best player in trying our best to do the right thing by Bangladesh and win games of cricket and do well in this World Cup.

"I'm the only English international head coach at the World Cup and that makes me so proud."

Bangladesh beat England at the 2015 World Cup to knock them out
England's 2015 World Cup hopes ended when Bangladesh beat them by 15 runs in Adelaide

Bangladesh can draw on recent inspiration as they prepare to face England in a World Cup again.

In 2015 in Adelaide, their 15-run victory eliminated England at the group stage.

"They're playing some amazing cricket at the moment." Rhodes said of England's class of 2019.

"They're rightfully world number one. Everything's going right for them - it's their back yards, they know the wickets and they're going to have huge support.

"But what comes with that is huge expectation and the favourites' tag.

"It would be great if we can spoil the party at Cardiff."

Tigers to surprise the pack?

Bangladesh came into this World Cup with some strong performances in previous ICC tournaments.

Quarter-finalists in 2015, they were also semi-finalists two years ago in the Champions Trophy in England.

This time Rhodes believes they can put themselves in the mix once again

"Hopefully we can sneak along the rails and surprise a few people," he said.

"The international experience of our guys is one of our strengths. A lot have played international cricket for a long period of time now and we've got plenty of ODI caps under our belt.

"We're not going to win every single game, we know that. We're going to have some ups, we're going to have some downs. But hopefully if we can have enough ups that may mean qualification - and then who knows?"

Steve Rhodes during England's Australia tour of 1994/95
Steve Rhodes played 11 Tests and nine ODIs for England, but missed out on representing his country in a World Cup

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