Will not having a wrist spinner cost the Tigers?
There could be no argument that the first Test between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium was a dull affair. Scores of 541 for seven (declared), 648 for eight (declared) and 100 for two clearly depict how the pitch in Kandy favoured only batsmen despite having a green top in the beginning.
The result was an inevitable and unflattering one -- a draw. In fact, it was the first time that a Test ended in a draw in Sri Lanka after 28 straight results, another point highlighting the mundaneness of the Kandy Test.
Amid heavy criticism about the pitch and an uproar to levy demerit points to the ground, the second and final Test, set to be played at the same venue from tomorrow, might see a more typical Sri Lankan pitch, where batsmen get help initially before spin starts to take effect as the days pass.
If that is the case, will Bangladesh be able to yield more than a draw on a pitch consisting of something for both batters and bowlers? As history suggests, spin is Bangladesh's strongest suit in any format. And while the Tigers boast a similar arsenal to that of the hosts' in all the departments, Bangladesh's spin armoury misses one lethal weapon that the opponents possess -- a wrist spinner.
In fact, Bangladesh have been missing this crucial member across all formats of cricket for many years. The 21-member preliminary squad that the Tigers named for the tour included four specialist spinners -- Taijul Islam, Mehedi Hasan Miraz, Nayeem Hasan and Shuvagata Hom, all of whom are finger spinners.
While Bangladesh are without even the luxury of employing a different style of spinner, Sri Lanka -- who have already played all-rounder-cum-leg-spinner Hasaranga de Silva in the first Test -- included a second wrist spinner in the squad in the form of left-arm bowler Lakshan Sandakan for the final Test.
Pacer Lahiru Kumara, who sustained a hamstring injury while fielding during the third day of the first Test, made way for Sandakan. The Lankans have, however, made another change to their squad, with pacer Chamika Karunaratne replacing Dilshan Madushanka, who picked up a hamstring injury during a practise session two days prior to the opener.
Bangladesh are missing premier all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan but even with Shakib, the spin department has been a bit predictable and easy to deal with in the past, best evidenced by the Afghanistan Test debacle in 2019 in Chattogram and the 2-0 Test series defeat at home to an inexperienced West Indies in February this year.
There have been a number of positives from the first Test including Tamim Iqbal and Najmul Hossain's batting, Taskin Ahmed's bowling and Mominul Haque and the team management's decision to go with five bowlers in an ideal blend of three pacers and two spinners in the squad. But, although Bangladesh took the field with three pacers, their dependency on spin was still evident.
As opposed to 70 overs bowled by pacers Abu Jayed, Ebadot Hossain and Taskin, the two specialist spinners -- Taijul and Miraz -- bowled a total of 103 overs with occasional spinners Mominul and Saif Hassan bowling the rest of the six overs in the only innings that the Tigers had to bowl.
While it is true that the hot and humid Lankan conditions do not bode well for pacers to bowl longer spells, that also means overexposure to similar kinds of spin attack would only help Sri Lankan batters get into rhythm whereas the Tigers might have to adjust accordingly every time Hasaranga or Sandakan is introduced.
But with Bangladesh not having the option of a wrist spinner, the onus will be on Taijul, Miraz, Nayeem and Hom, if he is called into the squad, to come up with variations rather than just focusing on "maintaining discipline," which they always say when asked about their plans regarding bowling in a game.