An analysis of Bangladesh’s recent Test performances would reveal a fairly routine trend.
At home, and in the slow turning tracks of the subcontinent, they seem to be capable of matching anyone. But it becomes a different story once they go outside the subcontinent.
The last two years have seen disappointing series losses in New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies. On most occasions, our team looks hapless in the fast, bouncy pitches.
The cancellation of the Aussie series possibly saved them from further blushes.
The recently concluded two-Test series against Zimbabwe can be considered as a lost opportunity for the Tigers. Given the home advantage, they were the clear favourites despite the absence of Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan.
Yet, a poor batting display in the first Test at Sylhet (the newest Test venue) saw them hand the tourists a rare Test success. The victory at Dhaka only saved our blushes.
Still, the cricket lovers here are hoping the Tigers will prevail in the two-match series against the West Indies starting later this month, taking full advantage of the turning tracks.
In the absence of Shakib, left arm spinner Taijul Islam and the young offie Mehedy Miraz have emerged as the key spin threats, and they are expected to carry on the good work against the Windies.
Yet, one feels that it’s about time that our cricket authorities take a look at the bigger picture.
The Bangladesh Test team can only make meaningful improvement if they play home tests regularly on some fast, bouncy pitches.
It may mean the Tigers might struggle against teams with a strong pace attack, but ultimately it would do more good than harm.
Most importantly, it would give our pace bowlers the chance to improve as Test match bowlers.
We might take a look at the recently concluded Test victory against Zimbabwe at Dhaka.
Left-armer Mustafizur Rahman and debutant Khaled Ahmed were the main seamers, but they played the supporting role behind the spinners and shared only one wicket among themselves.
Khaled’s figures in the match were 18-7-48-0 and 12-4-45-0. But, what the figures wouldn’t tell us was the fact that three catches went down off his bowling.
Even more importantly, he continuously bowled around the 140km mark on a slow pitch.
On a faster pitch, he can definitely bowl even quicker.
But, if we want to see the likes of Fizz and Khaled develop as true Test match new ball bowlers, we have to provide them with pitches that encourage them to go flat out at the opposition.
Certainly, the idea of putting at least one fast pitch in the series against the Windies wouldn’t get much popularity among the Tigers’ fans. Back in the summer, the Bangladesh batting looked hapless against the Windies pace attack.
The likes of Shannon Gabriel, Miguel Cummins, Jason Holder or Kemar Roach may look ordinary in comparison to some of the Windies fast bowlers of the past years, but they looked unplayable to our batsmen on the Caribbean wickets.
While Holder is going to miss the coming series, there is still plenty of venom in the West Indies pace attack.
A fast pitch would enhance their chances greatly. In fact, it would make the tourists the favourites in the series.
We should remember that, in the recent series, the Bangladesh top order didn’t look particularly comfortable against the Zimbabwean medium pacers, Kyle Jarvis and Tendai Chatara.
But, I still feel that it would be a good idea for the development of our cricket if our board seriously considers producing seamer friendly pitches for the Test matches.
The last three or four years have seen our seam bowlers emerge as a major force in the limited over games, but the skills required for Test match bowling are entirely different.
In the limited over game, it’s more about variations; more about keeping batsman guessing and, at the same time, correctly reading the batsman’s mind.
In Test cricket, it’s more about the ability to bowl hostile spells and bowl enough wicket-taking deliveries. Our fast bowlers are still lagging behind on these counts.
So, there is no doubt in my mind that we should not waste any time in trying to build our pace attack for Test matches, and we can only do that by producing fast seamer-friendly tracks for both Tests and domestic first class matches.
While the press here are discussing the possibility of Tamim’s return to the team (he is still likely to miss the series) or a possible inclusion of the 16-year-old leggie Rishad Ahmed, my main focus is on our fast bowlers.
I think it’s about time that they get proper opportunities to develop themselves as match-winning Test bowlers.