Less than a month after Bangladesh's ODI captain Mashrafe Mortaza's called the Mirpur pitch "unpredictable", their Test captain Mahmudullah has done the same, ahead of their second match against Zimbabwe starting Sunday. While Mashrafe had then said the team was used to the unexpected behaviour of the pitch, Mahmudullah has asked his batsmen to be more sensible in the upcoming Test, especially given their recent poor run with the bat.
Bangladesh aren't quite getting favourable conditions in Dhaka, even though it is the venue where they play and train the most. Since the 2016 Test against England, the Shere Bangla National Stadium was given a "spinners only" tag under the Chandika Hathurusingha doctrine. Even when Bangladesh beat England and Australia, the nature of the pitch did not get a lot of support from the team management and the players because of how the track was prepared against pace bowlers and batsmen.
That feeling has remained, particularly at a time when the home batsmen have had a long struggle for runs in Tests. Out of the four Tests in which they have failed to cross 169 runs in a single innings, Dhaka contributed the first two of those eight batting debacles in February, against Sri Lanka. The pitch was ultimately docked one demerit point by the ICC.
"The Mirpur wicket is mostly unpredictable," Mahmudullah said. "You have to adapt if it is not up to your expectation. We will go into this game empty-headed. We have decided not to do certain things. We can do well if we can bat sensibly and stick to our strength as batsmen.
"Spinners will get a lot of help in the fourth innings on a slow pitch, so winning the toss is very important. It is a tough wicket, a bit slow. It makes run-making slightly harder. The ball doesn't quite come to the bat. You have to bat sensibly. You have to stick to your strength and adjust according to the type of bowlers. We have to apply yourselves."
Mahmudullah said that their batting has lacked discipline during this period even though they have done well in other formats. He admitted that his own form, 58 runs in the last eight innings with three ducks, was an area of concern.
"I think we are not disciplined enough" he said. "We need heightened focus and concentration in Test cricket. Particularly in slow and spinning wickets where the ball doesn't come on to your bat, you have to be patient.
"I believe in leading from the front. I have to think as a batsman first. I haven't been scoring in the last three or four Tests so I will try to give my best."
He further said that Mushfiqur Rahim was likely to continue batting at No. 6, mainly because he will keep wickets in this game. "I think ideally he should bat at No. 5 or 6 since he is keeping wickets. Batting can be hard after keeping wickets for 80-90 overs. Maybe the team management is thinking along the same lines, to give him time to be refreshed. His batting is important for us."
There remains a lot of talk around the Mirpur pitch, particularly within the team management. Coach Steve Rhodes and chief selector Minhajul Abedin have held several meetings with BCB high-ups discussing the pitch. Trailing the Test series 1-0, Bangladesh now need to win the second match to avoid a series defeat but here, winning mostly comes at the cost of batsmen's confidence.