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Bangladesh have a legspin problem and their domestic system is to blame

They don't have legspinners, and they don't have batters who are successful against legspin

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Adil Rashid ran through the lower-middle order, Bangladesh vs England, 2nd ODI, Mirpur, March 3, 2023

Adil Rashid took six Bangladesh wickets in the first two ODIs  •  Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Adil Rashid dominating Bangladesh in the first two ODIs isn't a surprise. He is considered one of the best wristspinners in the world and he had helpful conditions to bowl in. He was also up against a batting line-up that isn't strong against legspin. Wristspinners like Rashid Khan, Kuldeep Yadav, Yasir Shah and Adam Zampa have troubled Bangladesh in the recent past.
Rashid dismissed four middle-order batters in the second ODI, removing Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Afif Hossain and Mehidy Hasan Miraz. He was crucial in the first ODI too, taking 2 for 47, a spell that brought England back in the game.
Bangladesh's problems against wristspin aren't new. Kuldeep spun them out in Chattogram in December, Zampa was successful in the T20I series in 2021, and Rashid did it in September 2019.
Their problems stem from the paucity of wristspinners in Bangladesh. Finding a needle in a haystack is easier than spotting a legspinner in the country. Jubair Hossain was only the second legspinner ever to play for Bangladesh but lack of game time in domestic cricket cut short a promising career. He has now been reduced to mostly being a net bowler whenever Bangladesh need one ahead of a home series.
Aminul Islam Biplob played a little more than Jubair, and he isn't even a full-time legspinner. He is a batting allrounder whose legspin was noticed in the nets by chief selector Minhajul Abedin a few years ago, around the time former Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo was in the hunt for wristspinners. Biplob is currently scoring some runs in domestic cricket and his legspin has been shelved for good.
Bangladesh's talent pipeline depends heavily on Dhaka clubs, whose officials (owners) and coaches don't believe in wristspin. They rely largely on left-arm spin and that has had an impact on first-class and T20 cricket too. Therefore a top batter gets to face only a few deliveries of legspin per season in competitive matches.
Bangladesh have been reluctant to change this culture, but their current opponents England were in a similar place around eight years ago. Among the major changes to their limited-overs set-up after 2015 was Eoin Morgan and Trevor Bayliss bringing Rashid's legspin back as a wicket-taking option. Rashid flourished as a result and grew into a world-class legspinner despite being absent from international cricket between 2009 and 2015.
After Rashid's success, England have introduced more legspinners in the last few years, including 18-year-old Rehan Ahmed, who is in line for an ODI debut in Chattogram on Monday.
In contrast, Bangladesh did not give their only legspinner of note in the last decade much of a chance. Back in 2014, Jubair was caught in a tug-of-war between Bangladesh's head coach Chandika Hathurusingha, who was keen on developing the legspinner's skills, and domestic coaches who simply refused to give him opportunities. His confidence was so badly dented that he bowled a delivery that bounced twice on T20I debut.
Given wristspin's prominence around the world, Bangaldesh have no easy answer to the problem of their batters struggling against legspin. They aren't close to developing one of their own either. Former Sri Lankan left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who is Bangladesh's spin-bowling coach, has four legspinners in the nets during the series against England, including Biplob.
"There's always a process, which is why (Rishad and Biplob) are with the national team," Herath said. "When they are having practice with us, they will learn a lot of things.
"We need to understand the resources we have at the moment. If we don't have it, we need to find ways to get the best out of them. That's why we are working with Rishad and Biplob, so hopefully they will get better and be prepared for the challenge."
Herath said Bangladesh have to find a way to score against legspin even if it means losing wickets: "We don't mind them taking wickets but we need to score off them as well," he said.
"Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid bowled well in the first two matches. They are quite experienced and knowledgeable about the sub-continent in franchise and international cricket. They are taking advantage."
Herath said that the current Bangladesh spinners have to develop skills to bowl defensively on batting-friendly pitches, something Tamim Iqbal said after the second ODI too.
"Sometimes you don't have to attack too much," Herath said. "You can be defensive. Sometimes even the defensive options would be attacking. Those are the things we need to understand."
Tamim said Bangladesh's bowlers need to develop defensive skills if they want to push for a place in the semi-finals in the World Cup later this year. "There's always areas to work on but you have to accept how (England) got from one point to another. They looked like they were settling for a 250-260 score, but then they got to a position where they looked like they were heading towards 370.
"We know it well that when the spinners are not getting assistance, you have to rely on the fast bowlers. We must have defensive skills too, if we want to play in the semi-finals or finals of the World Cup."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84