Ban vs NZ Tests – Hathurusinghe wants Bangladesh youngsters to step up in ‘exciting’ transition period

Head coach Chandika Hathurusinghe has said that Bangladesh need to “move on” from the senior players, calling the current transition phase an “exciting” one for the cricket in the country, ahead of the upcoming home Test series against New Zealand.

Regular captain Shakib Al Hasan, his deputy Litton Das, and Taskin Ahmed, the leader of the pace attack, have all been ruled out of the series. Shakib is recovering from a finger injury, Taskin is managing his shoulder niggle, while the BCB has given Litton a paternity break.

“It’s challenging to lose that much of experience from any team, especially for Bangladesh,” Hathurusinghe said. “Those guys have been part of the Bangladesh team in every format for more than 15 years. Some of them for ten years. 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. 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.”

At a time when Bangladesh were enduring a tough time at the World Cup, having lost six out of their seven matches, Hathurusinghe had said that his work has to “start after the World Cup”, adding that he couldn’t do much before the tournament having been appointed just seven months prior. Two weeks after their World Cup exit, he called the phase “a changing guard for Bangladesh cricket” and said that his focus was on developing a team with young players.

“I think every team takes pride in winning at home,” Hathurusinghe said. “We are no different. We are looking to win games in our own conditions. We will try to compete on away conditions. That’s the plan. We are very aware of our limitations and strengths. So we are not going to predict big things. We are developing a team now. It’s just a kind of a changing guard for Bangladesh cricket.

“The exciting thing is, there are good young players. 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. Players challenging the others who are in the team, make our team better.”

One immediate concern ahead of the first Test in Sylhet on Tuesday is that most of the Bangladesh players haven’t played red-ball cricket since June. The Bangladesh players who returned from India after the World Cup in mid-November were part of the last NCL first-class match. Hathurusinghe believed that was the most they could do to adjust to the longer format in this short turnaround period.

“We used the NCL matches for the guys who played the World Cup as preparation,” he said. “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.”

Bangladesh will bank on the vast experience of his spin bowling duo Taijul Islam and Mehidy Hasan Miraz, who are the side’s second and third-highest overall Test wicket-takers respectively. They have a combined 328 Test wickets, of which 228 of those are at home. In the last ten years, Taijul has been Bangladesh’s most successful bowler at home too. The pair has also been head and shoulders above the rest of the Bangladesh bowling attack.

“There is experience in Taijul and 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,” Hathurusinghe said. “Then there’s young (Hasan) Murad and Naeem Hassan. I think playing on this condition and this heat, those guys, spinners mainly, will play a big role.”

“We haven’t played as much Test matches [in Sylhet]. One, I think, if my memory serves right. So it’s new for us as well. We don’t know how the wicket is going to behave because we don’t have history here. We will just go by what we see in front of us. It is an unknown at the moment.”

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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