Tigers look to special plan to upend Eng
In scorching conditions at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong yesterday, the Bangladesh training contingent bore a depleted look. Many of the bowlers, including the two pacers, were left at the team hotel to rest up for what promises to be a gruelling five days, assuming the first Test against England -- starting today at 10:00am -- makes it that far.
The precaution was presumably taken to prepare for the eventuality of Bangladesh losing the toss and having to bowl first, for it is hard to imagine either captain deciding to bowl first when the home team has packed its squad with spinners, which in turn probably hints that the wicket will be more difficult to bat on as the Test wears on. More than the pitch, the weather would seal the deal in that regard -- batting first and piling on the runs will have the desired effect of draining the opposition's energy.
"The weather will obviously have a big effect," said Bangladesh skipper Mushfiqur Rahim during the pre-match press conference yesterday. "Maintaining concentration and consistency over five days will be challenging. I think it will be more difficult for them [England] than us, as they are not habituated to this weather, although they have been here for around 15-20 days. We will try to maximise our advantage to the fullest, be it from the wicket or the weather."
A major talking point heading into today's Test has been Bangladesh's near 15-month absence from Test cricket and how it will affect the home side against a team that has played 16 Tests in the same period. The other point of discussion has been the four newcomers to the side. The gap, however, was not an excuse that Mushfiqur was looking to employ before the game.
"No, if we start thinking about these things, then we are going on the back foot. Now is the time to play and we are focusing on that," said Bangladesh's first Test double-centurion. "We were in the game and we were playing, maybe we did not have any matches in this format. On the other hand it has also been a big challenge to be playing regularly for the last one-and-a-half years, which we did not get before in ODIs. We have been able to achieve that. Mentally and physically we will have to maybe do more than we have had to for the last 10 or 11 years, so that is a challenge."
With there being just two pacers in the squad, there have been questions surrounding the combination that will take the field today. Mushfiqur was keeping things close to his chest, but he did let on that in the search for 20 wickets they may have something up their sleeves.
"I am in agreement with what Shakib said," the diminutive wicket-keeper batsman said when asked about Shakib Al Hasan saying it would be difficult to take 20 wickets if the pitch was flat. "Taking 20 wickets on a flat wicket is difficult. So we have planned a little differently, and if the wicket helps our strengths then I believe that we have enough quality bowlers to take 20 wickets. And if we take our chances, then that is of course possible."
That hints at a heavily spin-friendly wicket, or at least the desire for one, may possibly mean a debut for young off-spinning all-rounder Mehedi Hasan Miraz and an ascension to the Test side for talented batsman Sabbir Rahman, who also bowls a handy leg-break.
One of the newcomers to the squad is wicketkeeper-batsman Nurul Hasan, who head coach Chandika Hathurusingha has recently called one of the best keepers in the country. But incumbent keeper Mushfiqur's slightly sensitive reaction to questions of whether he will keep, having not kept in their last Test due to a finger injury, suggests that the gloves will be worn by the skipper.
"The only reason I did not keep was that my finger was injured," said Mushfiqur. "Now I am fit, so if the team management wants, I will keep. I have kept and scored 200 and I have kept and scored zero too. So it doesn't affect me. My main job is if I can keep and contribute according to the thinking of the team management, and if they think that the team will play well without me in the team, then all the better."