What makes Bangladesh spinners click at Mirpur? Pro Teachs

In many ways, Test cricket in Bangladesh is almost like a throwback to the 1990s era in India. Bereft of fast bowlers, they depend a lot on spinners to get the job done on black soil pitches which tend to be on the slower side. Touring sides don’t need to think a lot about what to expect in Bangladesh. You get what you expect, but once on the field, it doesn’t get any easier for the opposition.

As India are struggling in their chase of 145, one has to take into account the fact that it is not an easy pitch to bat in the fourth innings. The highest successful run chase at the stadium is England’s 209 vs Bangaldesh in 2010, 205 by South Africa vs Bangladesh in 2008 and 103 by Pakistan in 2011. And it is the spinners who tend to cause the maximum damage.

Mehidy Hasan, Taijul Islam and Shakib Al Hasan may not have the guile and mastery of Ravichandran Ashwin, Nathan Lyon or Ravindra Jadeja. Neither are they in the mould of their predecessors Mohammad Rafique and Abdur Razzak, operating within limitations. Instead the trio possess the right armoury to ace the conditions, which are not the easiest to adapt to. Despite having a crowded pool of spinners – especially of the left-arm variety – they are still a bit old-school in the sense that there is no mystery to any of them.

But ask any touring batsmen what it is to face the Bangladesh spinners. Over after over, with crowded men around and a talkative wicketkeeper – be it Mushfiqur Rahim or Nurul Hasan – who resorts to an exaggerated reaction every time a batsman chooses to let go a delivery that is close to the stumps or when one of them gets just the right amount of turn to take the ball away from the bat, they can hear the decibel levels rise around them.

Those plenty of “ooohs, aaaahs, ekta ball (one ball)” from the crowded men around the bat can seed plenty of doubt in a batsman’s mind. And in conditions where they have literally grown up and are confident enough to take on any team, they don’t rely so much on flight or dip. Instead they operate on a line where batsmen have no choice but to play.

From the time India last toured Bangladesh (2015), the hosts have achieved memorable Test wins against England and Australia in Mirpur. And in each of those, their spinners were the architects.

“They are very accurate in their own conditions,” Sridharan Sriram, who coached Bangladesh at the recent T20 World Cup in Australia, told The Indian Express. “They know the right seam angles that they need to bowl in those conditions and know the pitches blindfolded. So the key to their performance at home is that they read their conditions pretty well and know how to adapt to them quickly.”

The slow pitches are challenging for touring teams also thanks to the unpredictability in bounce. The trajectory of the spinners keeps varying, and if one is not patient enough and commits to a shot early, the ball could take an eternity to arrive and make one end up looking silly. If a batsman believes he has got used to the pace and adjusts accordingly, the spinners may slip in that odd quicker delivery that doesn’t turn and carries on with the angle and hits the pad or the stumps. And to make matters more complicated, their spinners also rely on different seam positions, which makes the challenge a mystery to crack.

“They are cagey in the way they bowl in those conditions. They undercut, skid the odd one and even spin the odd one. That sort of trajectory (low) and seam position suit those conditions more than anywhere else in the world. They are black soil wickets, the ball keeps low, grips, turns slowly and the odd one just skids. There is a lot of natural variation that happens off the surface. The pitches are similar to what you find in Kolkata – where the water retention is not great so it gets dry quickly. If the odd one hits a grassy patch, it just skids on. If it hits a dry area, it will hold, stick on to the surface and straighten. That sort of seam position with a lower-arm trajectory is a good way to bowl on those pitches,” elaborated Sriram on what makes the Bangladesh spin unit click in home conditions.

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