Which strengths to focus on for next Afghanistan Test?
The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) announced the itinerary for Afghanistan's tour of Bangladesh in two phases, with the visitors set to arrive on June 10 for the one-off Test in Mirpur.
The Tigers do not have happy memories of hosting Afghanistan in lone Tests. Afghanistan had won by a mammoth 224 runs the maiden Test between the two countries in Chattogram as Bangladesh's plans backfired.
On a surface with turn for spinners, Afghanistan had one pacer while Bangladesh's only pace-bowling option was Soumya Sarkar. But despite Bangladesh's deep batting line-up, the Afghan spinners had more effect on how the match was played than their counterparts.
This time, the lone Test will be in Mirpur from June 14 before Afghanistan depart on June 19 for their series against India during the Eid-ul-Adha break. Afghanistan will return again on July 1 to play three ODIs on July 5,8 and 11 respectively before playing two T20Is in Sylhet on July 14 and 16.
After that lone Test in 2019, lots of discussions revolved around why captain Shakib Al Hasan had preferred a spinning track. "First thing to ask is where are the pacers? We played on sporting wickets at the World Cup. Why the reversal in plans? I have to know who came up with these plans first," BCB boss Nazmul Hassan Papon had said back then.
"I thought we were going to play on a sporting wicket," he had also stated.
Will there be a shift in tactics knowing that Afghanistan's spinners are a force to reckon with, especially considering that Bangladesh's strength now lies in their pace department?
On a spinning track, Afghanistan's spinners are expected to do better than Bangladesh's. But if the Test against Ireland last month in Mirpur is anything to go by, Bangladesh's pace attack did not have much to enjoy from the surface although the Tigers opted for a best-of-both-worlds policy with three pacers and three spinners.
This time, the Tigers will likely have to do without skipper Shakib Al Hasan. He injured his right index finger during the Ireland series and will take six weeks to heal. "Yes, chances of Shakib being there are low. Not having him is definitely a big setback, but there's not much to do if he can't play," selector Habibul Bashar said.
The Tigers had shown ambition with their selection, picking pacers Ebadot Hossain, Khaled Ahmed and Shoriful Islam for the Ireland Test. Chandika Hathurusingha will have his own process heading into the Test and Bashar believes that in time, their plans will be activated.
"We haven't gone according to a plan since there is a lot of time left before the Test. We do have some plans but it's not something to be shared," Bashar remarked.
The team management will however be hopeful that results are not as disastrous in terms of their own planning this time around.
June 14-18: One-off Test in Mirpur.
July 5: 1st ODI in Chattogram.
July 8: 2nd ODI in Chattogram.
July 11: 3rd ODI in Chattogram.
July 14: 1st T20I in Sylhet.
July 16: 2nd T20I in Sylhet.