Onus on Bangladesh to take the fight to West Indies
Match factsNovember 13-17, Mirpur
Start time 0930 (0330 GMT)
Big PictureA Test series between the seventh and ninth-ranked teams shouldn't attract much attention when four of the top sides are locking horns at almost the same time. But when the higher-ranked team among the two commands a new-found respect for winning a world title with its rising stars and its opposition is an erratic but talented bunch playing in front of excitable home crowds, attention towards Mirpur is expected. Contests such as these come without any guarantees but for those who enjoy a bottom-of-the-table scrap, this is it. To keep it a contest, though, Bangladesh will have to up their game and have the will to fight.
West Indies are looking up and have been moving towards a goal - a rise up the Test rankings, though this series will not take them past Sri Lanka, even if the latter concede their series to New Zealand. What West Indies can do is move further ahead of New Zealand and Bangladesh and, more importantly, take their cricket to a higher plane, a level they have been seeking for the past 15 years. Captain Darren Sammy wouldn't want a slip-up against a team they have beaten in all but one series, the one where none of their top players turned up.
As ammunition he has Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine and Fidel Edwards, while for the likes of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Darren Bravo and newcomer Veerasammy Permaul there is much to play for. It is now a team that has more and more places that are being contested, a phenomenon which is an important aspect of an improving cricket team, coupled with the stability which West Indies have began to develop in some areas of their Test team.
Bangladesh are seeking both competition for places and stability but as of now, only some places in the middle order are held firm and the spot for the second spinner is up for grabs. The national selectors had to call up a 22-man preliminary squad a week before the first Test only because they didn't have enough opportunities to see how some of these players have been performing. The washout of the three-day practice match in BKSP was as much a blow to West Indies as it was to some of the batsmen who could have furthered their cases. It will be those who were there last year who get preference. Captain Mushfiqur Rahim will need Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan at their best from Tuesday if his team has to have any chance of taking the game to the opposition. Bangladesh will, realistically, want to push the game to the fifth day but for that to happen, much will depend on how they handle the first session, with bat or in the field.
Form guideBangladesh: LLLDL (Completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies: WWDLL
Players to watchIt has been a quiet build-up to the Test series for Shakib Al Hasan, but Bangladesh's most celebrated cricketer likes it this way. Come the first Test, much would depend on his bowling though it is still uncertain how confident he is with it in the longer format. With the bat, he has stopped many a slide of the top and middle order but if he gets more time to develop a long innings, Shakib could be a threat even when he has to maneuver the Bangladesh tail.
Though not as influential with the ball as Shakib, Marlon Samuels is as effective, if not more, with the bat. Having returned to the Test fold in England, he has been the team's second-highest scorer in the format this year behind Chanderpaul. He has ambitions to hit three centuries in this short series, not too unlikely given how he dominated the Bangladesh attack in the ODIs last year. The pace at which he will bat will also help the likes of Darren Bravo or any of the younger lot who bat with him in the middle order.
Pitch and conditionsThough the Mirpur wicket has long been considered slow with nothing more than hip-high bounce, this season has seen at least two of the pitches here being friendlier towards the fast bowlers to much surprise. The first-class matches have seen more pace and bounce than ever before, though when the West Indies High Performance team played here earlier in the season, spinners found a lot of assistance with turn late in the day. The outfield has been patchy, despite a very expensive relay job undertaken by the BCB.
Team newsIf continuity is what Mushfiqur, interim coach Shane Jurgensen and the selectors are seeking, Nazimuddin and Elias Sunny will play ahead of Junaid Siddique and the uncapped Sohag Gazi. But given the confusion that has developed due to a 11-month gap since their last Test, and the lack of individual performances in between, the Bangladesh team management will have to go with the tried and tested, at least for the first Test. Junaid could force it after a good showing in the National Cricket League but it is increasingly likely that Sunny will be preferred ahead of Gazi.
Bangladesh (possible): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Junaid Siddique, 3 Shahriar Nafees, 4 Naeem Islam, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Mahmudullah (vice-capt), 8 Nasir Hossain, 9 Elias Sunny, 10 Shahadat Hossain, 11 Rubel Hossain
West Indies have success behind them - the series win over New Zealand in almost similar conditions at home - so they wouldn't want to tinker with the line-up. Permaul could debut, especially after picking up 24 wickets on tour with the High Performance Centre side to Bangladesh only a few months ago, while Fidel Edwards is also likely to return.
West Indies (possible): 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Assad Fudadin, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Narsingh Deonarine, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Fidel Edwards, 11 Veerasammy Permaul/Tino Best
Stats and trivia
- Shakib Al Hasan is four wickets away from becoming only the second Bangladesh bowler to take 100 Test wickets, after Mohammad Rafique
- West Indies' joint second-highest wicket-taker in Tests this year is batsman Narsingh Deonarine, with 15
Quotes"Competition for places can only be a good thing for the Bangladesh team. We have some of it happening for some positions, and the more it happens, the team will get better results."
Shahriar Nafees explains why he thinks he no longer has a secured place in the team
"Last year, we came here and came out on top. This year, we are planning to do the same thing. We have to keep believing in ourselves and we will come out on top again."
Ravi Rampaul doesn't want to forget what happened the last time the two teams met
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Bangladesh