Can Shakib Al Hasan and his men shine in West Indies? Only time will tell……
Bangladesh over the years have certainly improved as a cricketing nation. They no longer can be treated as minnows in the limited-overs and as far as Tests are concerned, they can give any side in the world a good fight. However, the fact that they were clean swept by Afghanistan in a T20I series at Dehradhun will in no way deter them from putting up a good show in the Caribbean. However, Bangladesh T20I and Test captain will have a key role to play in this series. Shakib last captained Bangladesh in a Test back in 2011. With Mushfiqur Rahim now focusing solely on his wicketkeeping and batting, Shakib now has an added responsibility.
Shakib is no stranger to winning against the West Indies. In his captaincy debut in 2009, Shakib led Bangladesh to an easy win. However, that turned out to be the only win under his captaincy. He lost the other eight matches against India (2), England (4), New Zealand (1) and Zimbabwe (1). His predecessor Mushfiqur won just 7 Tests out of 34, including wins against Sri Lanka, Australia and England. However, outside the subcontinent, Bangladesh have been horrendous. They were thumped by South Africa recently and before that by New Zealand in 2017.
Under Mushfiqur Bangladesh grew and slowly started up winning Tests against the big teams – all be it at home or in the subcontinent. But winning itself is a huge achievement for a team that was not taken seriously by world cricket some 6 to 7 years ago. Under Shakib, Bangladesh’s aim must not just be winning, but to win in alien conditions. Winning in places like England, New Zealand or South Africa is no doubt a huge achievement for any team from the subcontinent, but Bangladesh have to start somewhere. This is perhaps the best ever team Bangladesh have had over the years and it is now time to turn that into results. They could not have asked for a better place to start than the West Indies.
The West Indies team were excellent in the series against Sri Lanka recently, but they too are inconsistent. But the Windies by no stretch of imagination will be pushovers. Bangladesh, who are ranked one place above West Indies in the ICC rankings will look to consolidate on their position and even look to close in on Pakistan who are ranked 7.
But with the squad they have at their disposal, there seems to be a large gap in terms of experience between the batsmen and the bowlers – especially the fast bowlers. Shakib, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur, Imrul Kayes and Mahmudullah have been around for a considerable amount of time. But as you go down the order, the fast bowlers Nazmul Hossain, Shafiul Islam and Abu Jayed do not have enough credentials to boast about their experience at the highest level. However, one has to start from somewhere and this tour could be the beginning of a long run for thiese newbies.
To be consistent at the Test arena, one has to have a settled unit. A change or two is fine, but the core members must remain the same. Bangladesh have vast experience with the bat at the top, but need to work on the right combination when it comes to bowlers. The must also pick bowlers according to the conditions and to be able to do so, they need to have enough depth in their squad so that they have different sorts of bowlers to pick from.
Under Shakib, this is hopefully the dawn of a new Bangladesh – A team that can compete against the giants of world cricket and also win. As mentioned earlier, they are taking strides in the limited-overs format, but at the end of the day, Test cricket will undoubtedly be the benchmark against which any team will be measured. Bangladesh have been playing Tests since 2000. 18 years down the line, they have turned into a competitive team, but need to change that into wins. Under the new captain and hopefully a new coach, Bangladesh can slowly head in that direction.