If the Bangladesh squad for the first Test is anything to go by, there will not be much joy for the faster men when England and the home team square off at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong (ZACS) on Thursday.
Seven of the 14-man squad are spinners ranging from the specialists to the useful part-timers. There are only two pacers in newcomer Kamrul Islam Rabbi and the returning Shafiul Islam. While the spin options are many and the ZACS pitch will likely give them every assistance, all eyes will still be on one man to make inroads into the formidable England line-up — Bangladesh’s highest wicket-taker Shakib Al Hasan.
The man with 147 Test wickets is the best spinner in the country, but yesterday during practice at the ZACS he was not in a mood to take the entire responsibility for Bangladesh’s bowling success, something that he has had to do time and again.
“I don’t bowl a lot these days so there doesn’t seem to be any pressure,” said Shakib, whose bowling average drops from 33.31 to 19.74 in the six Bangladesh Test wins he played in. “When I bowled excessively, my role was different.
“I am also not just playing as the main spinner, so I will try to fulfil my responsibilities in the team.
His role in the team is of course not limited to his spin bowling. He is also third on Bangladesh’s run-scorers’ list, and his presence allows the team to include an extra bowler or batsman in the side according to the need of the hour.
There are of course a lot of questions surrounding the composition of the team as they have brought six changes to the last Test squad which played against South Africa almost 15 months ago. Among the six, four — off-spinning all-rounders Mehedi Hasan Miraz and Shuvagata Hom, Rabbi and wicketkeeper Nurul Hasan — are in a Bangladesh Test squad for the first time.
A question surrounds whether skipper Mushfiqur Rahim will keep in the Test as Nurul has been included. The keeping question is an interesting one, especially as Mushfiqur’s triple role as captain, keeper and batsman may prove too stressful going forward. The understudy was seen yesterday being put through his paces with the gloves in the nets, but Mushfiqur was also hard at work doing keeping drills on the centre wicket, so the status quo appears to be safe for now.
The only certainty seems to be that Bangladesh will have an arsenal of spinners at their disposal, with Shakib, part-timer Mahmudullah Riyad, Taijul Islam and one or both of Shuvagata and Miraz expected to strut their wares against England. But whether he admits it or not, in a side where the next highest wicket-taker is Riyad, it will be Shakib who will have to shoulder the burden.