Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Mirpur December 25, 2008

Ashraful backs batsmen to come good against Murali

Cricinfo staff

Mohammad Ashraful: "Most of our players can read his [Mutthiah Muralitharan's] doosra" © AFP

Bangladesh captain Mohammad Ashraful has said his batsmen are aware of the threat from Muttiah Muralitharan and he was confident they could face up to the challenge in the upcoming two-Test series against Sri Lanka which gets underway in Dhaka on Friday.

"A few players have no experience of playing against Muttiah Muralitharan, but most of our players can read his doosra, though Sri Lanka have a good pace and spin attack," said Ashraful. "We hope we will deal with their bowlers successfully and play good cricket."

Bangladesh have not won a Test this year - losing seven and drawing a rain-affected game. They have only played Tests against South Africa and New Zealand in 2008, both home and away, and would be keen to cap off a disappointing year on a high.

"Looking back at the last two home series, we played better against New Zealand and South Africa, and this time we hope to offer good cricket against Sri Lanka," said Ashraful.

Though he admitted to the lean patch he was going through, in terms of runs, he was confident it would not affect his captaincy and that he would still lead Bangladesh on the tour of West Indies in June.

"Why not? I just need to start scoring and performing and things will be alright," he said. "I am receiving great support from the players and the team management and it will be nice to get support from other areas also. I know that I have not scored runs in Tests for a while but my record against Sri Lanka gives me encouragement and confidence that I can do it again."

Coach Jamie Siddons was also concerned about the run drought from the captain but believed he could shake it off. "I think time will tell, but as I have been saying, Ash [Mohammad Ashraful] has been preparing as well as anyone and hits the ball well in the nets," he said. "So it just a matter of going out there and relaxing with the right frame of mind and playing the shots and using the skills he is developing.

"His defense is a lot better now. He just needs to use them in the right time. He can play all the shots in the book, but when he plays them, he sometimes falls into trouble. It's time for him to be consistent and he knows that. I don't believe in what had happened in the past. I believe in what will happen. He still needs to score like every other batsman tomorrow. There are four or five other batsmen batting in front of him and they need to score too."

Siddons also rallied the other players and believed it was about time they came good. "We played the best two teams in the world in three series in the last six months and now we have a team that I think we should be able to compete pretty well," he said. "There is no excuse. We are still young and developing side, but I think its time for the players to step up."

It's time for [Mohammad] Ashraful, Shakib [Al Hasan], Mehrab [Hossain jnr] … these guys to start to making big runs and give the bowlers something to bowl at. I am looking forward to that. That's the Christmas present I want and that's what I expectBangladesh coach Jamie Siddons

"It's time for [Mohammad] Ashraful, Shakib [Al Hasan], Mehrab [Hossain jnr] … these guys to start to making big runs and give the bowlers something to bowl at. I am looking forward to that. That's the Christmas present I want and that's what I expect. Hopefully they can deliver."

Siddons said Sri Lankan bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake had been a big help and was pleased with the way the bowlers had been preparing under his supervision. However, he pointed out, the onus still lay on the players themselves.

"We get more feedback from Champaka," he said. "He helps us a lot in our preparation and he has been working with all the bowlers and captain to come up with a game plan. But at the end of the day it's Shahadat [Hossain], Mashrafee [Mortaza] and Robin [Mahbubul Alam] to hit the stumps, using their skills to the best of their abilities and hitting the right areas."

Though Siddons was unsure about the playing eleven he said Enamul Haque jnr was likely to be the twelfth man. But whether Bangladesh take the field with three seamers along with Shakib Al Hasan as the lone specialist spinner remains to be seen.

The second Test will be played in Chittagong on January 3.