As Mushfiqur Rahim scored his eighth ODI hundred on a tricky wicket in Dhaka against Sri Lanka this year, the Bangladesh stalwart passed 6500 ODI runs in an impressive career so far.
Before Bangladesh had finalised their playing XI for the first Test against West Indies, there were two questions lingering over the XI – would Shakib Al Hasan be fit and who would be the two seamers in Bangladesh’s line-up?
Following the toss, one of the questions would remain unfulfilled as Bangladesh went into this Test with only one frontline seamer in Mustafizur Rahman.
Now, this lack of respect towards fast bowlers isn’t uncommon in Bangladesh’s Test team selection. The last time Bangladesh played a whole Test series with at least two seamers in the XI in every Test match was when South Africa faced the Tigers in a two-Test series in 2015.
Since then, there have been very few instances of Bangladesh playing two seamers in their line-up for home Tests.
Yet when the Tigers travel to countries where pitches offer almost nothing for spinners, the seamers are found wanting, as they’re not used to the fitness demands of bowling long spells in Tests due to the lack of spells they get to bowl in home Tests.
Series after series, the Bangladeshi seamers are outbowled by their opponents.
Head coach Russell Domingo said in February 2020 that Bangladesh would start playing with two seamers at home and provide better pitches to ensure that the seamers are match-hardened come away tours.
Will Domingo now be held accountable for not being able to stick to his statements, even if Bangladesh go on to win the first Test against the West Indies?
With Shakib Al Hasan in the XI for the first Test against West Indies, there was no other reason to play another three spinners in the line-up in Taijul Islam, Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Nayeem Hasan.
The better option would’ve been to play another seamer instead of Mehidy Hasan. Bangladesh has to be playing their two experienced first-class seamers in every Test match in Abu Jayed (253 wickets at 29.24) and Al Amin Hossain (157 wickets at 27.47).
At Test level, Jayed has taken 24 wickets at 32.45 with an economy rate of 3.35. Al Amin has taken nine wickets at 60.55 and an economy of 3.21.
Jayed is primarily an outswing bowler and has already dismissed the likes of Tom Latham, Cheteshwar Pujara, Babar Azam and the big fish – Virat Kohli – in Test cricket.
Although Al Amin hasn’t had the success he would’ve liked in Tests in the same manner, he has been able to do it in limited-overs cricket – he can swing the ball both ways at good pace and his height creates awkward bounce for batsmen.
Other seamers that should be in contention for Bangladesh’s Test spots consistently: Mustafizur Rahman (89 first-class wickets at 25.96), Hasan Mahmud (37 first-class wickets at 33.91), Ebadat Hossain (78 first-class wickets at 33.43), Taskin Ahmed (78 first-class wickets at 33.0) and Khaled Ahmed (51 first-class wickets at 35.82).
Under new bowling coach Ottis Gibson, Bangladesh’s seamers have looked a lot more accurate and have swung the ball more in all formats. But these seamers need more chances, instead of being thrown into the deep end when the Tigers tour away.
Even when Bangladesh got slapped around by India in the two-Test series in 2019, the Bangladesh seamers bowled with heart, often causing the Indian batsmen trouble.
Against a depleted West Indies side, Bangladesh had the perfect chance to give their seamers confidence by taking wickets with the new ball before the spinners ran riot with an older ball. Instead, it’s the same story all over again.
Unless there’s a cultural change where fast bowlers in Bangladesh are prioritised more often and given a chance, nothing will change. Bangladesh won’t be able to create a world-class pace attack out of nowhere. It requires time and patience.
But unless there’s the willingness to change the mentality and give seamers (who are good enough) a go in home Tests, those same selectors cannot expect Bangladesh’s seamers to magically win Tests for them when touring in foreign conditions.
Get your act together, BCB.