Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)-Leading a Test attack void of experience is nothing new to Shakib Al Hasan but in the first Test against Pakistan in Khulna, he will also have to tackle his own lack of bowling rhythm in the longer format.
He played in Bangladesh’s last Test series against Zimbabwe last November, but since then he has only played ODIs and T20s, reports espncricinfo.
After the Zimbabwe ODIs and the World Cup campaign, Shakib played two IPL matches for Kolkata Knight Riders before the ODI series and T20 against Pakistan.
During the same time, Jubair Hossain, Shuvagata Hom, Shahadat Hossain and newcomer Mohammad Shahid were playing in the National Cricket League, the first-class competition.
Taijul Islam, who was also in the World Cup team, played the opening game of this season’s Bangladesh Cricket League, the other first-class competition, after being dropped from the ODI squad against Pakistan while Rubel Hossain, like Shakib, hasn’t played a first-class match since the Zimbabwe Tests.
Shakib, however, doesn’t see it as a major concern, although he is looking forward to the first innings of the Khulna Test to get used to bowling long spells.
“Except me, everyone has played in the longer version this season,” Shakib said.
“Still I don’t think it will be a problem. I will definitely try to prepare myself in these two days, and then apply it in the Test match. It is important to train to bowl more overs, because I get to bowl fewer overs in the other formats.
The first innings will be vital though I wouldn’t want to bowl for a long time.
If I do, they will get to bat longer. We will try to bowl them out quickly, for which I will need rhythm. It is necessary that I get the rhythm.”
There are others who have taken more domestic wickets recently than some of the bowlers in the squad but chief selector Faruque Ahmed had said that they picked Shuvagata, Shahadat and Imrul Kayes to have continuation in the Test squad since all three had played in Bangladesh’s last Test series.
But that doesn’t give experience or a good vibe within the attack.
Shahadat, despite being the most experienced fast bowler among those available for Test cricket in Bangladesh, wasn’t given the ball in his last Test innings, against Zimbabwe in Khulna last year.
He has been mostly seen bowling in the Bangladesh nets if he wasn’t playing first-class cricket.
Rubel also struggles in Test cricket while Shahid has impressed in the domestic competitions but is untested at the top level.
So just like the Zimbabwe series and most of the home series in the past decade, the bulk of the work lies with the spinners.
Shakib, Taijul and Jubair have to whip up a performance.
Shakib is, without doubt, Bangladesh’s best Test bowler with 140 wickets in 37 Tests and will be mostly alongside the two rookies.
Jubair’s legspin has excited many including coach Chandika Hathurusingha, who lamented not seeing him in the World Cup. He has had a moderate domestic season, taking one match haul of eight wickets for Dhaka Division.
Taijul, meanwhile, has played only a single first-class game before this Test series, unlike his first two series against West Indies and Zimbabwe before which he had 55 first-class wickets from the 2013-14 season.
Attention will be drawn to his lack of bowling in long spells in the immediate past, like Shakib, before a Test series.
But the fact that Bangladesh have bowled out their opponents in their last six innings should encourage this lop-sided attack.
The average score during this time was 252. These bowl-outs were against Zimbabwe who looked all at sea against spin.
Shakib said that it is possible for this attack to take 20 wickets, if they get help from the pitch in Khulna.
He said that changing the mentality to Test mode will be crucial.
“It will depend on the wicket. I don’t know how it will behave though.
There are a lot of Tests where neither side could take 10 wickets.
We have to bowl well.
The big question is how the pitch will be prepared.
If the bowlers can get help from the wicket, we will have a chance to pick 20 wickets.
“I think it will be possible to change our mindset to Test cricket. There are a few changes in the team, we have some new players.
Those who played in the ODI series, they obviously have the belief within themselves. We have also played most of their bowlers, so it won’t be very difficult.
“I don’t think we should keep a goal in mind in this Test match. I think this will be a good series if we can transfer the confidence from the ODI series. They have an experienced batting line-up while we have a number of batsmen in form. I think we have a better bowling attack than theirs, plus I think our fielding is also good too. Doing well in all three formats… this will be a tight series.”
The likes of Taijul and Jubair will have a lot of bowling to do in this game given that one of Shahid or Shahadat is likely to be picked with Rubel.
Most of Bangladesh’s bowling will, therefore, depend on when, how and for how long Mushfiqur Rahim will use Shakib.