Beating Afghanistan will help Bangladesh cricket 'start becoming normal' - Shakib Al Hasan

Shakib Al Hasan turns his arm over in training BCB

Shakib Al Hasan has set his team's agenda ahead of their one-off Test against Afghanistan: bring back the good times to Bangladesh cricket, given most of the men's representative sides have produced poor results over the last few months.

The senior team didn't meet expectations at the World Cup, where they failed to reach the knockouts, and then had a shocker of a tour of Sri Lanka, where they lost all three ODIs. The A team, meanwhile, struggled against Afghanistan A at home, and a BCB XI couldn't reach the final of a red-ball pre-season domestic tournament in Bengaluru.

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It was only the Under-19 side that made good strides in a tri-nation tournament in England, finishing runners-up, and the under-performance of most of sides is seen as a wider malaise within the country's cricketing set-up.

Shakib, the captain of the T20I and Test sides, said that a win over Afghanistan would act as a balm.

"Except the Under-19 side who made it to a tournament final, we haven't really had a good time of late," Shakib said. "We [the senior side] didn't play well recently, and neither did our A team. So if we win this game, things will start becoming normal."

Shakib was critical of those who have questioned the senior team's all-spin tactic for the Test, but he maintained that the Test match would be won and lost by how the batsmen perform. "We don't criticise England and Australia for picking four seamers and no spinners," he argued. "So I am not too bothered about it. We will try to win with one, two or three seamers, but we must stick to our plan.

"Whenever our spinners have got their preferred type of pitches, they have done well at home. Having said that, they [Afghanistan] also have quality spinners. I feel the batting of both teams will make the difference."

Rashid Khan, who was appointed Afghanistan's all-format captain last month, agreed that the batsmen would decide the fate of the Test in Chattogram, but, more crucially, he was hoping for more improvement from the side that now has a 50-50 Test record; a loss against India and a win over Ireland in their first two outings.

"We are new in this format," Rashid said. "We cannot be expected to beat Australia in our third or fourth game. I think over time we will get better, like we saw Bangladesh beating Australia. Once we get everything right, we can beat other teams.

"But experience-wise, you need to play more matches in this format. We have the experience and knowledge of ODIs and T20Is, but it takes time in Test cricket. The quicker we learn, the better we will become."

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Rashid jogged his mind back to Afghanistan's underwhelming performance in their inaugural Test last year, against India, but underscored how, against Ireland earlier this year, his side gave a much improved performance.

"Our first Test was a bad game, against India," Rashid said. "To be honest, we didn't know what was happening in that game. It was surprising for us. It looked like a dream for the players and the country. But we didn't control our nerves in that game. We improved vastly in the next game, against Ireland. We will get better as we play more."

Rashid made it clear that now, as captain, he would not put himself under any additional pressure. "Captaincy won't be a burden on me," he said. "Senior cricketers [Mohammad] Nabi and Asghar [Afghan] are always helping me.

"I won't put myself under extra pressure. I am focused fully on my bowling, and I don't know who is the captain. I will try to keep enjoying what I do, be relaxed and as cool as possible. If I take pressure, it will affect my performance and put my team under pressure too."