Bangladesh take on Sri Lanka in two test matches this Spring. This blog looks ahead to that series.
The only solace from the record books is nostalgia; I had no idea that Javed Omar and Habibul Bashar were still playing cricket in 2007.
Otherwise, the results against Sri Lanka, in Sri Lanka, are the ugliest side of our test history. In eight meetings against the World Cup finalists Bangladesh have lost every game. Seven of those were by an innings. Sri Lanka doesn't bring back many happy memories.
Mass injuries have meant that youngsters, like Mominul Haque and Marshall Ayub have been given their first call ups, this excites me as it means that Bangladesh appear to be adding much needed depth to our existing squad.
The BCB have made an interesting decision with the call up of Mohammed Ashraful. Ash has been in and out of the squad time and time again, with his last test appearance (Pakistan, 2011) resulting in a single run from two innings. I want him to do well, but am quite frankly bored of his repeated "comebacks".
Instead, the place in the squad could have gone to Shamsur Rahman, who was the third highest run scorer during this season's BPL. He has impressed for both Bangladesh's U19 and A teams, and despite showing promise is still awaiting his first cap.
I can only assume that Ashraful's inclusion has come because, despite his shortcomings generally, he is usually brilliant against Sri Lanka; he averages just below 40, with a couple of centuries. One of those came in his debut test, aged sixteen, and if he can do the same in 2013 his inclusion will be justified and his international career, back on.
One To Watch
Twenty one year old off spinner Sohag Gazi is my one to watch. Never before has a new cricketer made so much impact so quickly. He took twenty two wickets in his debut series against the West Indies last year is the only bowler I have confidence in at the moment. With Shakib Al Hassan missing through injury there is a real opportunity for Gazi to build on a strong start and turn into a proper match winner for Bangladesh.
Why Bangladesh Are Going To Lose
So much of these tests will depend on our bowling, which at best is a problem, made worse by Shakib's absence. In the last test we played (Nov 2012) the West Indies scored 648/9. If you exclude Shakib's figures from the total the West Indies would have been on 497/5 and bearing in mind that Shakib bowled for over a quarter of that innings you sense that there is a huge gap left that Bangladesh will struggle to fill.
Sohag Gazi is part of the solution, but he is too young and inexperienced to carry the team in the way that Shakib does now, or that Mohammed Rafique did pre 2007. We also need to find a decent opening bowling attack. Sri Lanka's new batsmen Perera and Mendis have both scored double hundreds in the last couple of weeks and if given the chance, they will punish our bowling attack.
There is a legitimate fear of an all too familiar scenario - if Sri Lanka amass 450-500 runs in the first four sessions of the match or we get bowled out for 200 in the first innings - this game may well be over before it has begun.
Why Bangladesh Are Going To Win
There is a lot to be hopeful about in this current squad. Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahudullah and Nasir Hossain all came of age last year with significant contributions, whilst Anamal Haque, Abul Hasan and Sohag Gazi all showed promise during their maiden test series against the West Indies. Throw in Tamim Iqbal at the top of the order and we start looking pretty solid.
Bangladesh also have momentum. We go into this series off the back of our best year ever - we beat the West Indies at home and defeated India and Sri Lanka on the way to the final of the Asia Cup. If a few players can rise to the occasion and take control of a few early sessions in each test we could find ourselves in a match winning position.
Captain Mushfiqur Rahim has described this series as "our best chance to do well in Sri Lanka." I want to share his optimism, but as I write this an unheard of Sri Lankan batsman has just scored 168 not out as Sri Lanka's Development Emerging Team post 410 runs in a warm up game against Bangladesh.
The writing may not be on the wall, but Sri Lanka may have just picked up their paintbrush.