Want to bring home consistency to away Tests - Mushfiqur

Mushfiqur Rahim on Mehedi Hasan: "Here, he will learn how to switch his roles with the fast bowlers becoming the attacking options." Getty Images

One by one, Bangladesh's touring party walked to the centre of the Basin Reserve. First, it was chief selector Minhajul Abedin and BCB's cricket operations chairman Akram Khan. Then a second and third group went with players and coaching staff. Any batting line-up will have concerns about a green pitch but for Bangladesh, that concern is mixed with a lack of confidence in overseas conditions and the pressure of extending their recent good form at home.

For a team that doesn't travel much outside its own surroundings to play Tests, the challenge seems magnified, especially for the batsmen. The sight of a lush, green pitch can be disconcerting but the visitors can take heart from the numbers. In the last three Tests at the Basin Reserve, teams have scored in excess of 500 three times, raking up the scores in the second and third innings of the match. The highest first-innings score in the last three matches has been 221.

Bangladesh's concern, therefore, should be more about strategy than the pitch: bowl first if they win the toss, and then bat as long as possible to make use of a flatter surface.

Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim, therefore, has laid down the marker for his batting line-up: to bring their overall consistency of home matches to an away Test match.

"Our target would be to bring the home consistency to away Tests," Mushfiqur said. "It is time that we prove ourselves in overseas conditions. The batsmen have to take the biggest challenge. Some of them like Tamim, Shakib and Mahmudullah have done well in Tests here in the past.

"But now we need a collective effort from the batsmen, which we failed to do in the ODIs and T20s. We are capable, so this is our opportunity to do it. Our main challenge will be for the batsmen to set up the Test match for the bowlers. We have to put up a good enough total for the bowlers to defend."

Seven members of the Bangladesh Test squad have never played in this format abroad, including talented youngsters like Sabbir Rahman, Taskin Ahmed and Mehedi Hasan. There will be fewer expectations on the youngsters with most of the focus on the seniors in the batting line-up, Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur.

Mushfiqur's technical strength will be important in dealing with seaming conditions while Tamim has the experience of playing for the Wellington Firebirds in the domestic T20 tournament. Much will also depend on how Imrul Kayes, Mahmudullah and Shakib Al Hasan stand up to New Zealand's pace attack.

Mushfiqur said he had advised his young pace attack to target the top of off stump instead of being too focused on the available pace and bounce.

"Bowlers do get excited by extra bounce but the best ball here, like any other pitch, is one that targets the top of off stump," Mushfiqur said. "We have tried to pass on this message to our bowlers and also told them that even a top batsman needs one ball to get out. The bowlers have to work hard here because New Zealand know how to handle these conditions.

"When you know as a group that you can take 20 wickets, it gives a bit of satisfaction. But we are playing in a different condition and we haven't played an away Test in a very long time. The pace bowlers have to take over the attacking role that the spinners have in home Tests. I believe that our pace bowlers have the ability to take 20 wickets if they bowl at their best."

Mushfiqur also said that younger players, like offspinner Mehedi Hasan and seamer Mustafizur Rahman, should not be subject to unrealistic expectations. Mehedi took 19 wickets in his debut Test series against England in October, picking up the Man-of-the-Series award. Mustafizur, who has been rested for the first Test, was recently named the ICC's Emerging Player of the Year.

"I would request all to keep realistic expectations about Mustafizur or Mehedi Hasan," he said. "These conditions are new for them so sometimes even someone like Mehedi gets confused. But I feel he is a smart operator, which enabled him to come to the senior team so quickly. Here, he will learn how to switch his roles with the fast bowlers becoming the attacking options."