Mushfiqur looks to dominate
Mushfiqur Rahim and Tamim Iqbal took turns to bat on the one of the three nets the Bangladesh team was using in their morning practice session. It was the spinners' net where young bowlers from local Dhaka clubs tested themselves out against the big boys. Tamim was quick to nod in appreciation as a young offspinner drew an outside edge. Mushfiqur practised his defence and later stepped out against the left-arm spinners.
However, there was no legspinner on that pitch. Zimbabwe have two in their squad - Natsai M'Shangwe and Tafadzwa Kamungozi - who accounted for seven batsmen in the only innings they bowled in during the practice game in Fatullah. One of them will definitely feature in the XI tomorrow. Mushfiqur, however, played down the team's lack of experience against legspin and said Bangladesh would look to exploit the lack of experience in Zimbabwe's spin department.
"I don't think there is that much of a concern," Mushfiqur said. "Their entire spin department is quite inexperienced. So they will be more concerned than us. They will have to work harder. The pressure will be more on them.
"With regards to leg spin, yes it is true that we don't face too many of them in domestic cricket. Considering their spin attack I think we can face them. Also we have faced Jubair [Hossain] for the last six months or so, so that should help in terms of preparations. We are ready for that. We will try to pressurise their inexperienced spin attack."
If they are to pressurise the Zimbabwe bowling, Bangladesh will need a boost from their batsmen, who have struggled to post big scores over the last two years. Mominul Haque, with three hundreds in nine Tests, has been the most-prolific scorer closely followed by Mushfiqur. However, between Tamim, Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah and Shamsur Rahman, there is just one century in a combined tally of 30 Tests. It's the sort of figures that would have been in Mushfiqur's mind as he said he wants the batsmen to be more responsible.
"I always say that in order to win a Test you always need a scorer to carry on with the innings," he said. "Those who get set they need to play big innings. So we are trying to do that. In the practice matches there was less time, so I guess despite the fact that they couldn't score big knocks during the practice matches, they spent enough time in the middle I thought. So it should go well. Hopefully our batsmen will be responsible.
"This is a team game but individual game is very important. At the end of the day a single bowler or batsman can change the game. We have tried to send this message to the players. So everyone knows their roles. The time has now come to apply that in the middle. For instance Nasir [Hossain] was dropped. His dropping was a message that if a player does not perform he will be dropped. So I think the players should try to utilise this opportunity and play well. We don't always get a chance to dominate in cricket so we will try to do that in this Test hopefully."
There is always a stress on "processes rather than results" among modern captains - Mushfiqur used the phrase a few times while answering questions on results - but a poor year has forced Bangladesh to rework and experiment. "This year we have been struggling due to individual performances," he said. "The year before that four or five guys put their hands up. That hasn't happened this year. The last four or five months we have been trying different things with our batting line-up. We have really worked hard with our coach.
"I believe that the kind of bowling attack we have we can take 20 wickets," he said. "Just our fielding support is necessary. And we have done everything to improve that: short catching, long catching, whatever. It's not that we depend only on Shakib. I think we have two or three other bowlers on whom we can rely. That is a plus point."
Like Zimbabwe, Bangladesh too have problems getting enough Test matches. They play regular series with other teams but stick to the two-match formula. In the last 10 years, they have only played one three-Test series, against Sri Lanka in 2007. With Zimbabwe also not having played a three-match series in 12 years, that stat, Mushfiqur said, has been balanced out.
"This is a new challenge for us," he said. "We don't play three Tests often. It will be a challenge especially for the bowlers. But on the other hand, we haven't played many Tests this year. If you ask me, I am ready to play ten Tests. It has been that sort of year. So even if they are physically stronger than us I think what will matter more in the long run is how well they adapt to the conditions. Mentally and skill wise we are ahead."
When asked what result the team would satisfy his team, Mushfiqur said, "We are focussing on the first Test, first session and first ball."
And if the team needed any positive, it arrived in the form of Dav Whatmore, the former Bangladesh coach, who arrived in Dhaka on commentary duty. There were smiles and warm embraces as Whatmore walked into the nets to surprise the team.
"I remember the first Test win. It was very good," Whatmore said. "The one after was even better when we drew it because we had to bat long time - four and a half sessions - in the fourth innings to ensure the draw."
It was just the kind of flashback Bangladesh needed ahead of an important tour.
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo