Whenever Australia is due to play in the sub-continent, all the attention goes to their spin woes. The last time Australia won a Test series in Asia was back in 2011 when Michael Clarke’s team had conquered the Sri Lankans 1-0 in the three-Test series at their backyard. Now, Australia’s losing streak in Asia has stretched to four series losses on a trot and they will certainly be desperate to break the jinx when they lock horns against Bangladesh in the two-Test series, starting August 27. The upcoming series will be even trickier owing to the fact that the current Australian team has never played the red ball game in Bangladesh and they are unaware of what should be expected from those tracks.
What about Australia’s pace woes?
The sub-continent is famous for tailored-made pitches that favour the spinners and in turn, makes life difficult for the Aussies, who have again and again failed to take control against spin. However, a mentality of concluding that ruthless spin attack is the only solution to stop the Australians in Tests could be proved dangerous eventually for Bangladesh. The country has waited long enough and now that Australians are finally at their home, the Tigers can make no mistake that can be hazardous in the final result.
Looking at Australia’s performance in the recently ended India series, more than their vicious spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, it was the pacer Umesh Yadav, who happened to be troublesome for the visitors. No doubt, the spinners ended on the top of the wickets table after the four Tests, the Australians, had found a way to deal with them. Ashwin and Jadeja picked wickets more due to the batsmen’s own mistakes and not because they were as dominant as ever. While Steven Smith and his boys had done enough homework tp play against the spin pair, Yadav came as a surprise card, that shook the entire Australian boat. It was right from the opening Test in Pune where Yadav gave out his intentions loud and clear.
Although India lost the Pune Test, Yadav’s six wickets in the match was enough to hint the coming of something special. In the second Test in Bengaluru, the Australians witnessed the other side of Yadav. Although he picked just one wicket in the first innings, his discplined lines and lengths denied Australia the easy runs and that eventually put them under immense pressure and allowed Jadeja to run through them. Even in the second innings, it was Yadav who dismissed two of Australia’s senior batsmen – Smith and Shaun Marsh – that derailed the Aussie line-up.
Prior to the Australia series, it was Mohammed Shami who was the spearhead of the Indian attack but Yadav turned tables around by ending as the fifth highest wicket-taker with four spinners above him. For first-timers in India, especially from countries like Australia and England where the players are more used to playing on faster tracks, getting accustomed to the Indian conditions along with dealing the spin attack is a major task. However, the way the youngster Matt Renshaw played his first Test in Pune clearly testified the Australians had given them enough awareness of what can be expected from sub-continent’s spin. And it goes without saying that the same would have happened before the Australians flew to Bangladesh a couple of days ago.
Huge task for Tigers’ pacers
While Bangladesh’s squad have enough spin options, they have three players in the pace department – Taskin Ahmed, Shafiul Islam and Mustafizur Rahman. While two of these have some experience in limited-overs cricket, they are relatively new to Test cricket. It will be interesting to watch how they carry the pace attack’s responsibility and run the show in Dhaka in the opening Test.
Considering, it is Champaka Ramanayake, former Sri Lanka fast bowler, the new head coach of BCB’s High Performance Unit, a improvement in Bangladesh’s pace attack can be expected. This is his second stint with Bangladesh; He previously worked as the bowling coach of the national team from 2008 to 2010. During his first association with Bangladesh, he focused on working with natural actions and Rubel Hossain and Shafiul Islam were the most-notable names to come up around the time.
Since Champaka was aware of Islam’s talent and believed in his potential, Islam has gotten his place back in the Test team.
Islam, who last played a Test in the England series in 2016, was recalled for the first Test. He has a vast experience in limited-overs cricket, having played 63 ODIs and 11 T20Is, he has only appeared in nine Tests and so far has 15 wickets to his name. He earned a recall after he performed well in the practice match in Chittagong where he picked up five scalps. Meanwhile, Taskin made his Test debut earlier this year and is only four-Test old. Mustafiz also has played as many Tests as Taskin but has five wickets more than the former.
There is no doubt, the show’s toppers would be Shakib Al Hasan and his spin clan but it will be a massive turn around for Bangladesh positively if these young fast bowlers can make a crucial contribution to assist the spinners; that will only help the hosts go ahead in matches. In the last year or so, Bangladesh’s victories over teams such as England and Sri Lanka in Tests have opened doors for a new Bangladesh who are getting themselves way up where they will neck to neck with the teams of higher ranks.