Gillespie and Clarke earn recalls
Australia have recalled Jason Gillespie and Michael Clarke for the first Test against Bangladesh at Fatullah on Sunday. Clarke last played a Test match against the West Indies last November but has sat on the bench for the recent South Africa series. Gillespie meanwhile had an excellent domestic season and makes his return after Australia dropped him during the Ashes last year.
"We've gone with five bowlers rather than our usual four, having taken into account the workload on the three bowlers that were heavily used in the South African series and the expected conditions here," the Australia captain Ricky Ponting said.
"Michael Clarke gets another opportunity at Test level, having been the twelfth man in South Africa. We believe he's progressed in the last twelve months," he added. "Stuart McGill has been brought back to exploit the conditions here in Bangladesh, which are likely to favour spin bowling and Jason Gillespie has been rewarded after a summer's hard work in domestic cricket.
He has been an outstanding performer in the past for Australia and will be looking forward to this Test match."
Meanwhile, Ponting has promised there will be no let-up in the aftermath of their 3-0 series win over South Africa.
"We are here to play our best Test cricket," Ponting told AFP on the eve of the Test. "Things have been going according to plan for us in the past few weeks and we will try to freshen up and get our focus back."
The last time the two teams met was in the NatWest Series in England last summer, a tournament that will forever be remembered for Bangladesh's shock victory in the opening encounter at Sophia Gardens. It was arguably the biggest upset in the history of the game, but Ponting did not envisage a repeat performance.
"There is more luck involved in the one-day game than in Test cricket," he said. "I am sure the exposure they have had against some top teams would have helped them, but we don't want to bother about what they are capable of and want to focus on what we can do."
Australia are a depleted side, with Glenn McGrath missing for personal reasons, and Michael Kasprowicz, Justin Langer and Shaun Tait all sidelined through injury, but Ponting did not believe that their absences would impact on the outcome of the series.
He did, however, backtrack on his comments earlier in the year, when he was quoted as saying that teams like Bangladesh did not deserve to play Test cricket. "I probably said so without looking at the broader aspect," he admitted. "Bangladesh have improved as a one-day side due to exposure and I guess that is why they are playing Test cricket."
It is an unenviable task for a team that have managed just one Test victory in their 42 matches since November 2000, and after this two-match series, they will have no further Tests for 12 months. But their coach, Dav Whatmore, was intent on looking to the future.
"We're playing in our own conditions, and they are going to have to adjust a bit to their last six months in South Africa and Australia," he told Cricinfo. "We're very keen to go out there and compete against the No.1 ranked team, knowing that we've played some good teams in the last three years.
"I'm pretty sure that the people here in Bangladesh will be very appreciative if the boys show a big fight," he added. "If we really show that the opposition has to work hard to win, then the expectation of the public I think will be satisfied. But within the cricket board, the players and the management, we want to push it, push it, push it, as far as we can."
"If we had a good seaming all-rounder or even a spinner who could bat well in the middle-order, we could hope to put up a better show. But things have not changed much on that front over the past few years," he said.
The second Test will be played in the southern port city of Chittagong from April 16, and will be followed by a three-match one-day series.
Bangladesh (from) Habibul Bashar (capt), Khaled Mashud, Javed Omar, Rajin Saleh, Mohammad Ashraful, Shahriar Nafees, Nafees Iqbal, Aftab Ahmed, Alok Kapali, Mohammad Rafique, Enamul Haque, Mashrafe bin Mortaza, Shahadat Hossain, Syed Rasel.
Australia Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Shane Warne, Stuart MacGill, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Stuart Clark.