Wednesday , September 28 2022

Both hunter and prey The Daily Star


When it comes to the use of home conditions by banking on spin-friendly tracks in Tests, Bangladesh team management have made their intentions clear over the last two years – trap the opposition in a web of spin and bring the result in their favor.

The strategy has produced first-ever wins against England in 2016, Australia in 2017 and last Saturday it helped deliver their first ever home Test win over the West Indies.

It has been used effectively against teams not from the subcontinent, but it is a gamble that Bangladesh think tank knows can backfire on them.

When it comes to tackling the spin trap set for the opponents, Bangladesh has also been trapped in their own web due to batsmen's inability to handle opponents spinners in difficult conditions. The best example of this was Australia's off-spinner Nathan Lyon scalping 22 wickets in the drawn two-series series in 2017.

Bangladesh has built an arsenal of spinners of their own. Skipper Shakib Al Hasan is the most experienced of the lot and provides valuable expertise when it comes to reading the batsmen. His sharp drift and a lethal arm ball have helped him remain the best Bangladesh bowler for a long time now.

Taijul Islam, on the other hand, knows his limitations and strengths, which is to bowl in the right areas consistently and keep asking difficult questions of the batsman to induce mistakes. Mehedi Hasan Miraz, among the shorter players, has also worked on his variations and uses the crease to great effect.

Newcomer Nayeem Hasan, who became the youngest debutant in Test History to take a five-for, is the only one who gives the ball a fair rip and extracts a substantial turn – a rarity in Bangladesh – and also has the ability to bowl with over-spin with the added advantage of being over six feet tall.

They are the best spinners in the country and bring different things to the table, but their variations are largely drawn from skill and intuition rather than any real unique features. It is enough to fight the opposition batsmen, but it has to be asked if these variations are sufficient to keep home batsmen ready for combat on difficult wickets.

It may be one of the reasons that Bangladesh has as many hunters as they are hunters in home tests. The search for a leg-spinner remains an ongoing and unsuccessful one. Jubair Hossain, who was once thought of as a leg-spinner, now fails to get a first-class team.

The diversity in spin practice may or may not be a problem, but the lack of similar pitches in first-class or even List A cricket is certainly a hindrance. After the Mirpur Test against Australia, player Tamim Iqbal lamented the lack of practice on such wickets.

West Indies are often thought of as among the worst players of spin bowling, which they showed in Chattogram. But it may surprise many to know that over the last three years, Bangladesh has lost wickets to spin more often than even West Indies – once every 53 balls to West Indies' 55.1.

The strategy may stand in good condition in the second test, but for it to become a surefire one instead of a gamble, the powers that will be ensured that practice in domestic cricket backs up the scheme in Tests.

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