New Zealand in Bangladesh 2013-14 October 8, 2013

'Time to focus on the cricket' - Mushfiqur

With the BPL scandal embroiling Bangladesh cricket of late, Mushfiqur Rahim, the captain, wants the side and nation's attention to be focused solely on the upcoming New Zealand series

The first Test against New Zealand, which begins Wednesday, will lead Bangladesh back on the right track after six months of scorn and scar. The BPL corruption scandal has been the most talked-about topic ever since Mohammad Ashraful admitted his involvement in fixing matches, and later when he and eight others were suspended indefinitely by the ICC.

Bangladesh captain, Mushfiqur Rahim, wants his side and country's attention to be firmly on the game. "It is time to focus on cricket," Mushfiqur said. "The whole team is doing just that. We want to do well in the whole series, to give the people of Bangladesh another opportunity to smile."

It had been unbearable for those who passionately follow the game in Bangladesh. The drip feed of sordid details and rumours have not dissipated much, with new information routinely emerging. The Bangladesh players too have found it hard to follow all that has been coming out of the scandal, and have mostly kept themselves away from it.

The corruption tribunal could be formed this week after it missed the 40-day deadline of starting the full hearing last month. What will actually accelerate the healing process is the sight of the national team taking on a higher-ranked side. Though Test match cricket hasn't seen large crowds here for a while, Bangladeshis have responded to criticism and controversy in cricket by turning out in numbers.

The topics of discussion too have changed over the past few weeks. Ashraful's replacement at No 3, possibly Marshall Ayub, has been far more important to talk about than how the former Bangladesh captain fell from grace.

Marshall is a shoe-in to replace Ashraful but there is still a debate raging on who to pick between Mominul Haque and Naeem Islam at No 4. The decision on whether to pick a third spinner after Sohag Gazi and Shakib Al Hasan, or to altogether replace Gazi with Abdur Razzak, is another conundrum.

Mushfiqur is a little concerned with the six-month gap between Tests, but he said that if Bangladesh has one problem in this game, New Zealand will have three.

"Our bigger challenge is with ourselves rather than against them [New Zealand]. We are playing Test cricket after a long time and this is a new wicket and a new square.

"But if there is a problem for us, then I expect it to be triple for them. We are quite habituated and we are hoping to get used to the pitch fast."

There are a few other areas of concern for Bangladesh. The most interesting of them is the expectation on them because of the 4-0 drubbing they handed New Zealand in the last ODI series in 2010. At the same time, Bangladesh have yet to master the art of finishing off Test matches, often yielding ground after making strong starts.

"We often play well in the first three days and then lose because of the last two days," Rahim said. "From the Sri Lanka tour we kept reminding ourselves after each session to perform well in the next so that we can play well throughout the match. We have these short aims that we are trying to achieve and hopefully we can play well in the entire test and be consistent."

Mushfiqur is hopeful of a series win, especially with Shakib on his side. The allrounder was the Man of the Series in 2010, when he led the side in the absence of Mashrafe Mortaza. His other advantage is the number of performers in his side. The likes of Nasir Hossain, Sohag Gazi and Robiul Islam will give him more confidence.

"Pressure is always there, and there will be a pressure on us because we have been playing well at home for the last year and a half. I think the players are a lot more responsible now, and hopefully if we can play well as a group we can outbid the pressure."

The rain in Chittagong could delay the start of play on the first day, but cricket has replaced controversy at least in the tea stalls, restaurants and living rooms. Mushfiqur would also want the full attention of those around him, and not just the cricketers, to be on the game.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here