“The first Test starts from Wednesday (July 4) in Antigua and we can safely say that the batting holds the key for Bangladesh”
Here comes yet another opportunity for Bangladesh to improve their overseas Test record. Under the newly appointed head-coach Steve Rhodes, the upcoming two-match Test series against Jason Holder’s West Indies, who are currently ranked No. 9 in ICC Test rankings, is an ideal platform for the Tigers to showcase their red-ball prowess. In 2014, the last time they toured this part of the world, Bangladesh failed to win a single game. Hence, this time, under the leadership of Shakib Al Hasan, they have a score to settle.
However, it’s easier said than done.
In the recent series in the Caribbean against Sri Lanka, the pitches had a fair bit of venom for the fast bowlers and the ball dominated the bat throughout. Well, it is expected that Shannon Gabriel and Co. will adopt the same strategy against Bangladesh as well. So, in that case, the visiting batsmen will have their task cut out against the rejuvenated Windies attack.
Nevertheless, compared to Sri Lanka, the Bangladesh batting line-up has a fair bit of experience in their ranks. The likes of Shakib (51 Tests), Tamim Iqbal (54 Tests) and Mushfiqur Rahim (60 Tests) are around at the international stage for more than a decade now. Also, there are familiar names like Mahmudullah (37 Tests), Mominul Haque (27 Tests), Imrul Kayes (34 Tests) and youngster Liton Das, who batted beautifully in South Africa.
Hence, on paper Bangladesh have a settled top seven. Now it is all about playing to their potential.
Going into the series the visitors warmed-up with a two-day practice game against West Indies Cricket Board President XI at the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua and had a decent outing. Batting first, the Bangladesh XI made 403, with Tamim and Mahmudullah scoring unbeaten tons. Apart from the duo, the skipper too got a 79-ball 67. So, things have gone according to the plans for the team management.
Meanwhile, considering the high chances of pace-friendly tracks during the Test series, in order to be successful, Bangladesh batsman should mix caution with aggression in their batsmanship. They should not go to the crease with the mindset of just surviving. Yes, the application is important, but on lively tracks, as a batsman, one needs to bat with intent and positive attitude. They should utilise each and every opportunity to get runs as at the end of the day, runs on the board will be the deciding factor.
In this regard, right at the top Tamim needs to play a crucial role. His kind of batsmanship (batting with a high strike-rate) is the ideal way to negotiate bowlers on a green track. If he, along with Kayes, can ensure minimum damage against the new ball, this Bangladesh batting line-up can put the hosts under a lot of pressure. Remember, there is depth in this line-up as spin-bowling all-rounder Mehidy Hasan bats at No. 8.
However, West Indies will surely target the visitors with short-balls, especially when there is less sideways movement. So, in the middle-order, the likes of Mominul, Mushfiqur, Mahmudullah, Shakib should prepare themselves for the challenge. Either they have to play those cross-batted shots to counter this strategy or need to leave those balls to frustrate the opposition. But whatever the Bangladeshis will do, they need to do with conviction. There shouldn’t be any two-way thinking when it comes to handling the short-pitch stuff.
The first Test starts from Wednesday (July 4) in Antigua and we can safely say that the batting holds the key for Bangladesh. If batsmen can put the runs on the board, the Tigers have the bowling to bowl West Indies out twice. Overall in the next couple of weeks, we can expect to see an intense battle between bat and ball.