CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh, CMC – Heavy focus will rest on the pitch as West Indies attempt to rid themselves of the demons of the nightmare India tour, when they face minnows Bangladesh in the opening Test here today.
For the first time in some while, they will enter a Test series carrying the tag of favourites, and will hope to make it count against a side whom they have dominated in the past.
An emphatic series win for West Indies would help soothe some of the pain from the battering they received against powerhouses India last month when they lost both Tests inside three days, but stand-in captain Kraigg Brathwaite said past results against Bangladesh counted for little.
“I think it will be different. We won a number of games here before but I think it is a stronger unit, especially the spinners are doing a very good job for Bangladesh,” Brathwaite told reporters here Wednesday.
“It won’t be the same as before; it will probably be more challenging. We just have to keep backing our plans against spinners and pacers. We have to be disciplined when we bowl. Their batsmen are also dangerous here. We are up for it, but it won’t be easy.”
West Indies boast an impeccable record against Bangladesh, both home and away. They have won five of six Tests here, drawing one and have captured five of eight on Caribbean soil, losing two and drawing one.
The two defeats came in 2009 when West Indies fielded a depleted team due to a players’ strike which robbed selectors of the first choice squad.
Earlier this year, West Indies crushed Bangladesh in a two-Test series in the Caribbean, with neither match lasting beyond the third day.
However, Brathwaite said it was important his side played positive cricket, especially since Bangladesh would be at home on familiar pitches.
“We can’t think about the past series. We have to stick to our plans. Pitches are obviously different to what we played on,” he explained.
“Whatever we do, whether fast bowling or spin, we have to do it well. I saw the pitch. It is what we expected. It is a little dry. There may be a little movement in the first hour. I think it is a typical type of surface in Bangladesh.”
He added: “They have some good spinners but you need to have some good fast bowlers, so whatever our plans are, we have to believe in them, and back them. We must have the right attitude towards each bowler. It will serve us well.”
West Indies will be without captain and key strike bowler, Jason Holder, for the series, due to injury and will need to rely on the lesser experienced likes of Keemo Paul and Sherman Lewis.
However, they have in their arsenal speedster Shannon Gabriel and experienced seamer Kemar Roach, and Brathwaite believed his pace attack can play a key role even on the low surfaces expected.
“Obviously the pitches will take some spin but that doesn’t mean that pacers won’t bowl well so as a group we have to go out there and play,” Brathwaite said.
“I think our pacers will do well in these conditions. Obviously it won’t be easy as it’s quite hot but I think our pacers, once they get a chance, will do well in these conditions. They are quite similar to the Caribbean to be honest.
“I back our spinners to do the majority of the job but I still believe the pacers will be quite significant.”
West Indies have toured with two specialist spinners – leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo and left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican – while batsman Roston Chase bowls effective off-spin.
The match at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium bowls off at 9:30 am (11:30 pm Eastern Caribbean time).
BANGLADESH – Shakib Al Hasan (captain), Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Mohammad Mithun, Mominul Haque, Mushfiqur Rahim, Ariful Haque, Mahmudullah, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Mustafizur Rahman, Taijul Islam, Syed Khaled Ahmed, Naeem Hasan.
WINDIES – Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Jahmar Hamilton, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Shermon Lewis, Keemo Paul, Kieran Powell, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican.