Australia risk an embarrassing slide down the Test rankings if they’re unable to conquer Bangladesh in the upcoming two-match series.
Steve Smith’s side landed in India earlier this year with a chance of reclaiming top spot on the International Cricket Council’s charts.
Now they will tumble to No.6 if Bangladesh win both games during the two-Test series that starts on August 27.
The prospect of sitting above only Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe would hardly instil confidence ahead of this summer’s Ashes.
Such a fall from grace is unlikely but far from impossible.
Bangladesh, who defeated England at home in 2016, are no longer the hapless easy-beats that Jason Gillespie memorably mauled during his unbeaten double century in Chittagong some 11 years ago.
“It’ll be hard and I don’t think they believe it will be anything but hard,” former Australia skipper Ian Chappell said.
“Not so much because of the pay dispute, it’ll be hard because the conditions there are difficult and in the last 12 to 18 months Bangladesh have really improved.”
“This will be a difficult tour.”
It will be Australia’s first outing since the bitter pay saga came to a head, partly because of players’ refusal to tour Bangladesh without an agreement.
Smith and the vast majority of his teammates haven’t donned the whites since losing a four-Test series in India some four months ago.
Some Test squad members were slated to tour South Africa with Australia A last month but that trip was boycotted amid the industrial standoff.
“It obviously took a bit longer than both parties would want. Certainly as a coach, you wanted it sorted a bit quicker,” coach Darren Lehmann told radio station Triple M, when asked about the dispute.
“It was a little bit frosty wasn’t it? But they’ll certainly get back together.
“Now the challenge for us is to play some bloody good cricket … and entertain the fans, get the fans back on side.”
Australia snapped a nine-Test losing streak in Asia with a shock victory over India in Pune in February. They were competitive throughout that series in a 2-1 loss.
The Test squad, including recent additions Mitchell Swepson and Jackson Bird, will head to Darwin for a pre-tour training camp later this week.