KINGSTOWN – Some are calling it a battle of minnows.
But though Bangladesh’s Test history will give evidence to that, and West Indies’ record over the past decade has placed them near the bottom rungs of the world ratings, the regional team enter tomorrow’s Test at Arnos Vale in St Vincent with expectations that they should win the two-match series against their struggling guests. It is a Catch-22 situation, though, where they are expected to win but still victory considered hollow because of Bangladesh’s perceived weakness.
Defeat for the West Indies would be a disaster. But their last meeting at this ground in 2009 did result in a loss for the West Indies though that was a weakened team hit by a players’ strike that necessitated seven players making their debut. The regional side is much stronger this time around and will be looking to their veterans, opening batsman Chris Gayle and the prolific Shivnarine Chanderpaul, to lead their batting as they try to keep the Asians in the sun for a lengthy fielding period. Chanderpaul comes into the game on the back of scoring 183 for St Kitts and Nevis against a Bangladesh XI. Younger batsmen such as Kraigg Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood will be expected to perform well, having done so against Bangladeshi sides in the recent past.
West Indies’ bowling should be led by Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor with support from rookie bowling all-rounder Jason Holder. Though he has been selected in the 13-man squad, off-spinner Shane Shillingford has not looked the lethal force he has been previously, now that the ICC has deemed he throws his doosra and has barred him from bowling it. He could sit down for the Test in preference for the left-arm spin of Sulieman Benn.
Bangladesh have plenty of concerns going into the Test – mostly related to their batting. Opener Tamim Iqbal scored a century back in 2009 but he hasn’t made a Test ton since 2010. His top score in Tests this year is 31, and he will have to do much better than that to ease the pressure on his side’s fragile middle order. However, a positive from the tour match against St Kitts were centuries from skipper Mushfiqur Rahim and batsman Nasir Hossain. Much will also be expected of Mominul Haque. He has scored three hundreds in Bangladesh’s last four Test matches, and has batted with a lot more assurance than many of his teammates.
He has not made any runs on the tour so far but appears to be a big-day player and should play barring a bout of selectorial madness.
Bangladesh’s bowling attack looks weak. Rubel Hossain is the only bowler to have played more than 15 Tests, and his bowling average is a poor 81.23, the worst among all bowlers who have delivered more than 3000 balls in Test cricket. Left-arm spinner Taijul Islam is most likely to make his Test debut, in which case he will be selected ahead of Elias Sunny, who has only just arrived in St Vincent to replace Sohag Gazi. Al-Amin Hossain has become a bit of a leader of the attack, though he himself has played only three Tests.
But he was the highest wicket-taker in the ODI series less than two weeks ago and with Robiul Islam being downgraded in the pecking order and Hossain’s below-par record, Al-Amin can expect a lot of bowling.
One area where Bangladesh is more settled than their hosts is at the very top. They have an official coach. But Chandika Hathurusingha has not set his expectations very high. He has said that he is hoping for a draw, while acknowledging the deficiencies in his team. A bit more ambition could open his eyes to deficiencies also in the West Indies side, exposed time and again over the past 15 years.
Possible West Indies starting XI: Denesh Ramdin (capt), Chris Gayle, Kraigg Brathwaite, Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jermaine Blackwood, Kemar Roach, Jerome Taylor, Jason Holder, Sulieman Benn.
Bangladesh: Mushfiqur Rahim, Al-Amin Hossain, Anamul Haque, Elias Sunny, Imrul Kayes, Mahmudullah, Mominul Haque, Nasir Hossain, Robiul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul Islam, Shamsur Rahman, Shuvagata Hom, Taijul Islam, Tamim Iqbal.
The action starts at 10 a.m.