New Zealand captain Tim Southee said they are expecting a “hard-fought Test series” even if Bangladesh would be without several frontline players in the two-match series beginning in Sylhet on Tuesday.
Regular Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan and fast bowlers Taskin Ahmed and Ebadot Hossain have been ruled out of the series with injuries, while Litton Das will miss the matches being away on paternity leave.
Southee reckoned the home side, to be led by Najmul Hossain Shanto, would particularly miss their talismanic all-rounder Shakib and stumper-batsman Das.
“Shakib’s obviously been a great player for a long time…and Das is a class player who has done well against us in the past,” Southee told reporters on Monday.
“I guess it’s a bit of a miss for them not having those guys, but it presents an opportunity for some other guys to slip into those positions that have been occupied for a long period of time by those two.”
Southee is excited to kick off the new cycle of the World Test Championship with a two-match series against Bangladesh.
“The guys have a great desire for Test cricket. They say it is the pinnacle of the game. Whenever we do play Test cricket, it is always special. We love and prioritize Test cricket,” said Southee in the pre-match press conference.
The Kiwis had a brief pause in the red-ball cricket as they appeared donning the white jersey at the beginning of this year against Sri Lanka and England. Despite having such a hiatus in the longest format of cricket, Southee was upbeat on the eve of the first Test and is looking to do well in the new WTC cycle.
“The start of the new cycle is exciting. It is a tough place to play Tests. Bangladesh is strong in these conditions. We played Tests back at the start of the year. The last cycle didn’t go as well as we planned. The guys involved in the first WTC cycle know how special it is to do well in this championship,” Southee added.
Southee reckoned conditions would be “foreign” in what would mark the beginning of the World Test Championship (WTC) cycle for both teams.
“Obviously pace plays a big role back in New Zealand and in this part of the world, spin historically plays a pretty big role.
“We’ve got some quality spinners that have done some great things in Test cricket, so we’re looking forward to them showcasing their skills.”
New Zealand have arrived with three frontline spinners in Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and Ajaz Patel and the inaugural WTC champions have more slow bowling options in all-rounders Rachin Ravindra and Glenn Phillips.
Bangladesh head coach Chandika Hathurusingha believes this series will be an exciting opportunity for youngsters.
Speaking to the reporters ahead of the game, Hathurusingha stated that losing experienced players was a significant setback for Bangladesh.
“It’s challenging to lose that much of experience from any team, especially for Bangladesh. Those guys have been part of the Bangladesh team in every format for more than 15 years. Some of them for ten years,” Hathurusingha was quoted as saying by ICC.
He clarified that this just meant that Bangladesh’s young cricket players now had more possibilities.
“It is however something to look forward to, to see what the youngsters can do. I think it’s a time that we need to move on from some of the players that have played for a long time. They are not going to be there forever,” Hathurusingha added.
“But this is happening because of many reasons. I think it’s exciting and it’s an opportunity for some of the youngsters to make their name and then have a long career,” Hathurusingha said.
Hasan Murad, Hasan Mahmud, and Shahadat Hossain Dipu are the three players in Bangladesh’s team who do not have Test caps.
Hathurusingha was also fully aware of the difficulty posed by his lack of red-ball cricket experience before the series. However, after returning from the World Cup, a few Bangladeshi players were able to play in their first-class National Cricket League’s final round.
“The challenge is these guys haven’t played enough cricket leading up to. So our planning has to be a little bit better than this going forward and making a bigger pool of players available for every position in bowling and batting.
“We used the NCL matches for the guys who played the World Cup as preparation. Most of the batters made use of that opportunity. Most of the other players have been playing NCL. This is almost like a new-look Bangladesh team for various reasons. Not by design. I think we are ready as we can be and I’m looking forward to this Test series,” he added.
The coach banked on his spin attack to deliver for the Tigers in the series.
“There is experience in Taijul [Islam] and [Mehidy Hasan] Miraz. Taijul has 177 Test wickets. Definitely, he’ll be a leader of the attack and Miraz is playing since 2016 if I remember correctly,” Hathurusingha added. “Then there’s young Murad and Naeem Hassan. I think playing on this condition and this heat, those guys, spinners mainly, will play a big role.”
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