Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo has asked his batsmen to deliver a big performance against Pakistan in the Rawalpindi Test, which begins on Friday.
During Domingo’s tenure so far, Bangladesh have lost all three of their Test matches, and with Shakib Al Hasan’s ban in place for most of the year, there is a lot of concern over how the team will cope in a Test-heavy 2020. Domingo believes Rawalpindi may be a good place to start showing positive results.
Some of the batsmen have shown good form recently in the domestic first-class competition, while the Test specialists have worked extensively with batting coach Neil McKenzie when the T20I side was in Pakistan last month.
Domingo hopes Bangladesh will show an overall improvement as a Test team since their crushing series defeat in India in November, and that they can put Pakistan under pressure and expose their vulnerabilities.
“The wickets that they are playing here [in Bangladesh] don’t have much pace and bounce, but I am sure Rawalpindi might have some pace and bounce,” Domingo said. “It is going to be a big challenge for the boys. The Test players have been working on some technical things with Neil McKenzie. Of course, some of the boys know that they have to put in some big performances on the back of a poor Test series against India. We have to show a bit more commitment with the bat, and find ways to manufacture scores even when the conditions are not good.
“We know that we haven’t played well in Tests, but if you are going to Pakistan thinking that we can’t win, might as well stay here. I am confident that if we do things well and improve considerably from our tour to India, we can push Pakistan. It is going to be tough; they are a quality side. But we know they can also have a bad day. We need to have a great day when they have a bad day. If that happens, we give ourselves a chance.”
Among those on whom Domingo will pin his hopes will be Tamim Iqbal, who has just made a maiden triple-hundred in first-class cricket, as well as Mahmudullah and Mominul Haque, who also scored first-class hundreds shortly before departing for Rawalpindi. But inconsistency has dogged less experienced players such as Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar and Mohammad Mithun, who have been given an extended run in Tests since 2018. Domingo stood by his batsmen, saying he believed in consistent selection.
“When you say Mithun is not in good form, he is currently 60-odd not out. He has come off playing one T20I in Pakistan. I think he had a decent BPL. I wouldn’t say he is in bad form. Soumya seems to be playing well. I want to make sure we have continuity in selection. Mithun was in our last Test series in India, under tough conditions.
“It is hard to leave a guy out after one or two Tests. I have always said that selection needs to be consistent, and we give guys an opportunity to play a number of Tests before you make decisions on their careers. A lot of the guys on this tour were with us in India. We are giving them opportunities to improve their game.”
Domingo said the big runs his batsmen have made in domestic cricket will be the best preparation they can have, given Bangladesh only have one practice session at the venue of their Test match.
“There’s no doubt that runs in the middle is worth more than just practicing in the nets,” he said. “So the players who got runs will gain confidence. Tamim’s three-hundred is a fantastic effort and it is something that should be treasured, as it doesn’t happen often.
“Mominul and [Mahmudullah] Riyad got hundreds and Mithun got a 60. Guys have got five wickets. They have shown why they are in the Test team. It is always important for Test players to put in big performances in domestic cricket.”
Domingo said Bangladesh are likely to give Najmul Hossain Shanto the No 3 spot, with Mominul batting below him to compensate for Mushfiqur Rahim’s absence.
“At the moment Mominul is earmarked to bat at No 4. I will probably get Shanto to bat at No 3, and Saif Hassan to open the batting with Tamim Iqbal. Mithun and Riyad at No 5 and 6, and Liton [Das] probably at No 7.”
Domingo, however, added that over the next three Tests, Bangladesh would be forced to change their batting line-up at least for one position, when Mushfiqur – who is available for the one-off Test against Zimbabwe later this month, but not for the Pakistan Tests next week or in April – returns.
“I am under the impression that this is the squad for this one Test match. We will re-evaluate once we get back,” Domingo said. “You have to remember that Mushfiq got runs in the last Test, but we also need to consider the fact that it is hard to pick a batting line-up, change it for one Test, and then change it again for the third Test. I want to give guys a run, but we also need to consider that Mushfiq was our best player in India.”
This headache is for later, but right now, Domingo wants his Test side to train its focus on the job at hand, and not pay too much attention to the big names, such as the legspinner Yasir Shah.
“We have a few left-handers which will help us [take on Yasir].” Domingo said. “He is not at the top of his game recently. Pakistan always produce great fast bowlers and legspinners, but we have to be positive and confident to negotiate them. Yasir Shah is a fantastic bowler but it is just a cricket ball. As Ottis [Gibson, Bangladesh’s fast-bowling coach] says, ‘play the game, not the name.'”