April 23, 2003

Bangladesh hope to be competitive

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Bangladesh go into the first Test against South Africa at the MA Aziz Stadium in Chittagong with the spectre of Dav Whatmore looming large on the near horizon. Whatmore is expected to take charge of the team on June 1, and several team members will be casting more than the odd anxious glance over their shoulders ahead of his arrival.

Bangladesh have lost all but one of their 17 Tests since gaining Test status in 2001, the lone exception being a rain-hit encounter against Zimbabwe. Their one-day form has been similarly dismal, and Khaled Mahmud, who took over from Khaled Masud as captain after the World Cup, has a job on his hands to buck the trend.

"We are hoping to do better and aiming to at least salvage a draw," said Mahmud. "It's very disappointing to keep losing matches, many of them inside three days, but we are better prepared this time. We are banking on our spinners to do a good job, but it is more important that our batsmen apply themselves well. We can only hope for a draw if we bat for four or five sessions."

As far as South Africa - who head the ICC Test Championship table - are concerned, Graeme Smith couldn't have hoped for a milder baptism as Test-match leader. When he walks out for the toss in Chittagong, he will be the third-youngest captain (22 years, 82 days) in Test history, after Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi (21 years, 77 days) and Waqar Younis (22 years, 15 days). Smith was a surprise appointment to the top job after Shaun Pollock was sacked for his failure to even guide the team into the World Cup Super Sixes.

Smith started his reign by leading South Africa to the final of the TVS Cup triangular, winning three games on the trot after a hiding from India in their opening match.

"I thought we improved as a team during the tournament and I myself learned from each game," said Smith. "We hope to make full use of the matches here to gain more experience." South Africa are likely to play just the one specialist spinner in Paul Adams, despite the slow nature of the wicket. Jacques Rudolph and Smith himself may chip in with some overs, but the selectors are expected to keep faith with a pace-oriented attack. Allan Dawson and Andrew Hall should both play, leaving Charl Willoughby to man the drinks cart.

Teams South Africa (from) Graeme Smith (capt), Mark Boucher (wk), Hershelle Gibbs, Boeta Dippenaar, Shaun Pollock, Neil McKenzie, Paul Adams, Allan Dawson, Andrew Hall, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Jacques Rudolph, Charl Willoughby.

Bangladesh (from) Khaled Mahmud (capt), Mehrab Hossain, Mohammad Ashraful, Javed Omar, Habibul Bashar, Akram Khan, Sanwar Hossain, Mohammad Salim, Alok Kapali, Mohammad Rafique, Tapash Baisya, Manjural Islam, Mashrafi bin Murtaza, Enamul Haque.