'We're the favourites' - Shakib
Shakib Al Hasan, the Bangladesh captain, thinks his team is slightly ahead of Zimbabwe as they prepare for their first Test match in more than 14 months. The 15-member squad leaves Dhaka on July 27 to play a one-off Test and five one-dayers in what will be Zimbabwe's return to the game's premier format after six years. While the hosts have played a number of games against the second-string sides of South Africa and Australia, Bangladesh have only gone through a long fitness camp and some two-day games against the Academy side before the tour. Still, Shakib believes that they go into the series as favourites.
"I think we are, but I won't say that we are too far ahead of them since we're playing in their weather and conditions and playing after a good gap. But still, I think we're the favourites," Shakib said during the pre-tour press conference in Mirpur on Monday. "I am not thinking about it as a problem and as Stuart [Law] said, everyone should be excited and I'm sure they're interested to do well in the Test.
"They [Zimbabwe] are getting good practice against South Africa A and Australia A. They will be prepared so we'll have to play our best cricket."
Stuart Law, who was appointed head coach of Bangladesh earlier this month, said that he has set small targets, starting from batting out a good number of overs in the first innings. "It's not a skill problem as I've seen. The players are highly skilled. It's the mental approach that has to change in Test cricket. They have to find a tempo that suits Test cricket with their batting. If we can find the right tempo, we can post scores that the bowlers can bowl at.
"I've set a challenge for us to bat 120 overs in the first innings. If we can do that, 350-plus should be an achievable target."
Bangladesh will go into the Test with just one bowler, Shakib, who has more than 50 Test wickets, and the absence of Mashrafe Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain could be the biggest worry for the team. "I think [Shahadat Hossain] Rajib is a huge loss," Shakib said. "He's been our best Test bowler for quite a while. But those who are in the team, they're bowling well. I think they've the ability to take wickets,"
Of those in the squad, Shakib singled out left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak, saying his record over the last 12 months would have given him the confidence to play Test cricket. "[Abdur Razzak] Raj bhai has been bowling well in the last year or so. I have bowled the most as I was the only chosen spinner in the team but I still think Raj bhai can do well if he's chosen. But the burden falls on the entire bowling unit. Everyone has to work hard as the spinners won't get a lot of help from those wickets,"
Shakib was involved in a controversy over team selection on his return from Worcestershire, but wants to make amends in Zimbabwe with a fresh outlook. "Opportunities come all the time. It depends on you when you want to change your attitude and the way you go about your work. I think it's a great opportunity to prove myself."