News is Shakib Al-Hasan has no physical constraints to play. Of course the apex all-rounder is yet to be match fit, yet it is certainly a big boost-up for the tigers at their den. Visitors from the Caribbean islands are already in Bangladesh, this time for a two-test series, the first of which is scheduled to be played at Chittagong from November 22 to 26. The Windies side had put up a good fight against India a few months back, and surely the ODI series in India has enriched their sub-continent experience. So, the question remains, ‘How much weight can Shakib’s finger lift?’
Shakib went home in the middle of Asia Cup 2018 worsening the old finger injury. He missed the latest bilateral contest against Zimbabwe. Although the home side won the ODI series in flamboyant style, yet the Test series performance was below par. They shared the Test series 1-1, losing to the African side miserably in the first Test. Left-arm spinner Taijul Islam picked up 18 wickets, which earned him the man of the series award, yet all the other bowlers were average. Yes, Mushifiqur Rahim scored a double-ton, his second in Test, and Mominul Huq scored a century. Acting captain Mahmudullah’s Test batting woes ended too with a century in the second innings of last Test. But what keeps the monsters keep coming under the bed is the performance of the first Test. The Tigers crippled to a mere 312 runs in two innings and gifted the visitors a 151-run win--Zimbabwe’s first in away soil after 17 years.
Without Shakib Bangladesh continued to trust their spin on home soil. Taijul and Miraz were the two restless warriors, but the latter failed to show progress except for the last Test innings. As for batsmen, it was shameful. Not even a fifty in any innings shows how miserably they have failed in their own backyard. Debutant Ariful Hoque tops the list with 41 and 38 runs in two innings. Expectedly, Nazmul Hossain Shanto, Liton Das, Abu Jayed, Shafiul Islam and Nazmul Apu have been left out of the squad. Soumya Sarker and green Nayeem Hasan enters the squad with high hopes along with the regular captain. Then again, cricket fans raise the question about the exclusion of Abu Jayed who was the standout pacer in the last Caribbean tour. To which chief selector Minhajul Abedin responds, “[Abu Jayed] Rahi is not really dropped. We may go with one seam bowler, so there’s no point keeping him around the squad. The same goes for [Najmul Hossain] Shanto, Shafiul [Islam] and [Nazmul Islam] Apu.” So much for the demand for a quality pace attack in Test!
As for Windies, they are in quite good shape really. Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope impressed with the batting capabilities. Kimo Paul, Raymon Reifer, etc. comprises a quality pace attack nonetheless and with Debendra Bishoo they have a standout leggy. What the home side might miss out is the possibility of missing a foot in an all spinning pitch. They lack speedstars unlike West Indies and if the batting contingent fails to perform, heavy defeat may be on the cards.
Shakib is back, and that’s the only silver lining for the cricket-frenzy nation. It will definitely allow them the space for another specialist batsman. Yet again, they rely heavily on the left arm magics from the spinner. The Bangladesh Captain is fit, but can those fingers lift the weight of expectation of a whole nation? Can he make the team understand that for avoiding a test defeat a team must not be defeated in at least seven sessions? Or will he once again lift all the workloads in his own shoulder and veil the serious lack of character from the rest of the players? The mystery unveils on November 22.
Bahar Ahmed is a freelance sports writer