Mushfiqur relishing 'biggest chance' to beat Australia
Mushfiqur Rahim, Bangladesh's Test captain, has said that the upcoming two-Test series will be his side's best chance to beat Australia. Mushfiqur drew comparisons between the current team and the one that pushed Australia more than nine years ago in Fatullah.
"This is the biggest chance to beat Australia," Mushfiqur said. "We will definitely try to give more than our 100% in both Tests."
Bangladesh have been excellent in one-day cricket since late 2014, winning four bilateral ODI series in a row against Zimbabwe, Pakistan, India and South Africa. In Tests, they won 3-0 against Zimbabwe and lost one Test to Pakistan in May this year; the others were all rain-affected drawn games.
The Australia series is Bangladesh's last international assignment in 2015, and Mushfiqur wants to cap the year with another high.
"It would be a great way to end the year [with a win]. In 2006 they had the greatest team of all time. At that time we were long way from even thinking about beating them, and some even questioned whether we can play for four days," he said.
"If that team can go close to beating them [in the first Test in Fatullah], why can't this team beat them? A win won't be impossible if we can play five days. I hope we become like our ODI side. Our cricket has come to such a stage that expectations are a bit more these days."
Part of the reason for the rising expectations has been Mashrafe Mortaza's captaincy, and in particular his backing of the pace attack. Since taking over as limited-overs captain last year, Mashrafe has regularly employed Taskin Ahmed and Rubel Hossain in a three-man pace attack. Mustafizur Rahman's unprecedented early success has forced the team management to pick four pace bowlers at times, but the same can't be said about the languishing Test pacers.
Mushfiqur is hoping that the added choices in the ODI bowling attack can adapt well to Tests . Taskin and Rubel are part of the Bangladesh A team that will play three one-dayers and two three-day games in India from this week. Shafiul Islam and Al-Amin Hossain are also in the Bangladesh A squad.
"We have choices in pace bowling, which is great news for Bangladesh cricket. A lot of matches this year were won by pace bowlers. If we can combine pace and spin and our batsmen do well, the series against Australia will be a good one.
"We hope that the Bangladesh A team does well. Those of us who are playing in the NCL, will also try to give good performances although we are playing just one game. I hope everyone makes the best use of it. We are mentally focused from now."
Mushfiqur was also wary of the threat of Australia, who find themselves shorn of experience following the retirements of Ryan Harris, Michael Clarke, Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin, and Shane Watson.
Mushfiqur, however, said that his side would focus on their strengths and consistency: "They are suddenly not going to lose because they are a young side. The top-class players from India and South Africa came here but lost. We played good cricket and were consistent, enabling us to win. We have to do well the things in which we are good at.
Mushfiqur also identified his opposite number - Steven Smith - as Australia's 'main' man
"It was expected that they would rest Johnson and Hazlewood. They have two new cricketers but we will know about them soon enough," he said. "They may be a young team, we can't forget this is Australia. In these conditions, Smith is their main cricketer. And Maxwell is making a comeback after playing in the UAE. We will try to keep these two under pressure and get them out quickly."
Mushfiqur said that the threat posed by Nathan Lyon would be tackled the same way Bangladesh nullified South Africa legspinner Imran Tahir, who took just two wickets in the ODI series in July.
"They are not weak in playing spin. Look at Nathan Lyon's record," Mushfiqur said. "He is among the top-three spinners in the world. He is effective against left-handers and we have a few of them. We have made some plans for him, something similar to what we did against Imran Tahir."
Australia are scheduled to arrive in Dhaka on September 28. The first Test, in Chittagong, will begin on October 9.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84