Bangladesh coach puts onus on batsmen
Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha has pinned hopes on the batsmen for the two-match Test series against West Indies as he considers their bowling stocks "limited". The first Test begins at Arnos Vale, Kingstown on Friday, where Hathurusingha expects Bangladesh to fight hard to enforce a draw.
In the last series between the two sides in West Indies, back in 2009, Bangladesh had comprehensively beaten a weakened home side who were suffering a players' strike. But the circumstances are quite different now. Bangladesh's overall form has forced Hathurusingha into admitting quite early his target for the Test series.
"Our realistic goal would be to draw the game," Hathurusingha told ESPNcricinfo. "If we play well, bat well, we will be in the game. Our bowling stock is limited. We must look to bat deep and bat long, score runs and be in the game."
In only his third month, Hathurusingha has so far seen five ODI defeats, the country's best cricketer being handed a 6-month ban and myriad other problems have come up on the field.
"We are working hard on the morale," he said. "It is not an aspect that can be changed overnight. It has to come from our action, not only from the coach and players but from everyone involved in cricket. We are working on that. I have seen them in only six ODIs so far. I have a bit of idea how we can go forward, what we need to do to improve in one-day cricket. But Test cricket is still ahead of us."
The focus was firmly on the batsmen, who have misfired throughout the year. Consistency has been missing, as was the case with Anamul Haque, considered one of the few in-form batsmen, who scored a hundred in the first ODI against West Indies but added 7 and 0 in the next two.
It is worse for Bangladesh's other leading batsmen too. Tamim Iqbal, Nasir Hossain and Mahmudullah have not scored much, while Mominul Haque has suddenly found himself in a dip. Mushfiqur Rahim has contributed regularly but not from a winning position.
However, Hathurusingha had seen how the batsmen were able to put together a 350-plus score in the practice match against St Kitts & Nevis, and so he remains hopeful that they would put a substantial score together. Mushfiqur and Nasir scored centuries, and although there was once again a middle-order wobble, there were periods when the two centurions were in control.
"In the first game [in St George's], we batted well on that wicket," Hathurusingha said. "In the second game we didn't bat well. In the last game they really played well. The target was too daunting, in the middle we had a partnership although we had a big asking rate.
"I think we are getting there. We are trying hard to understand our roles and finding the right way to play those roles. It is still an early stage for me to understand their strengths and limitations. I am all open-minded but I can't get into too many details without knowing what they can do in the middle," he said.
What is worrying for Hathurusingha and the rest of the Bangladesh think-tank is a bowling attack without any experience of note. Robiul Islam, Shafiul Islam, Al-Amin Hossain, Taijul Islam and Elias Sunny have a total of 21 Tests.
Since 12 of Mahmudullah's 31 Test wickets have come in the West Indies, he can be considered a bright spot but batting is his main job and he has not been doing well. Rubel Hossain's 19 Tests make him the most experienced, but his bowling average is the worst among bowlers who have bowled at least 3,000 deliveries. Hence, Hathurusingha has kept selection of the playing XI open.
"We haven't decided our final XI," he said. "There are places for grabs for players to put their hand up. Until we have seen the wicket we don't know what combination we will have. You know that we are handicapped, we have one spinner left. Our strength is spin so we are going into this game without that option. So it is a bit hard and we might have to discuss a different combination.
"Our bowling attack is going to be tested on these wickets. The spinner who is coming is quite inexperienced. It is going to be a challenge for our attack, beside considering the wicket," he said.
When asked what he wouldn't like to see from the batsmen in the Test series, Hathurusingha simply said, "I want them to see make a lot of runs."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84