The Bangladesh team, on their maiden tour of England, has just come off a creditable
performance in their opening match, a relaxed 3-day affair against the British
Universities 11. Buoyed by the first avoidance of calamity, thoughts naturally
turn to team selection for the 1st Test match at Lord's. An on-going debate has
centered around whether the BD 11 should comprise 3 pacers and 1 spinner - as
is wont in most non-subcontinental Test matches - or should the side sacrifice
the 3rd seamer for our latest match-winner, Enamul Haque Jr.
Supporters of the two spinner theory have essentially put forward two major
- Regardless of conditions, BD should go into a match with its 4 best bowlers
(with the implicit conclusion that based on current form, Enamul belongs in
that list along with Rafique)
- England are weak against spin and are therefore likely to be more susceptible
to the 2nd spinner than to the 3rd seamer.
To do justice to this argument, let us first analyze the conditions factor.
The table below shows bowlers who have taken 5 or more wickets at Lord's in
the last 20 years (since 1985).
Of the top 38 only 3 are spinners. Two of the three played for
England and the best performance does not rank higher than 19th. Also note when
those three 5-fers by spinners have occurred: in late English summer. By late
summer, a number of matches have been played, the weather is warmer and so the
pitches are generally drier and a little worse for wear; thus spinners get some
purchase off the pitch. Even so, such luminaries as Muralitharan, Warne and
Kumble do NOT even feature here. A spinners paradise, Lords is not.
In fact, England in general is not kind to spinners; hence that nation's paucity
of quality ones. The pitches are soft and the outfields are lush. The ball rarely
gets purchase off the pitch and is not overly roughed up by the outfield. the
outfield. Perhaps it is worth it to look at some slow bowling numbers? Owing
to England history with the the game, some form of filtering is in order. Since
our two primary spinners are SLAs, for the sake of argument let us just focus
on them. Furthermore, let us filter it to a few representative bowlers: people
from the subcontinent or bowlers who rely mostly on loop or bowlers who depend
on change of pace. The table belows shows a sampling of such SLA performances
in Test matches in England.
Again, this is not a flattering chart. It shows that the number 1 task the
SLAs have performed is to keep runs in check, with the average Economy rates
mostly under 3 rpo. Wicket wise, even the great Bishan Bedi only managed 3.68
wickets per match. Giles is next with 3.01 wickets per match - and he has oodles
of experience with the conditions.
So ... going by conditions and past history, one spinner is plenty for Lord's
and pretty much for most English grounds. If that spinner is an SLA, he must
be very accurate with any wickets coming as a bonus.
Going by the top 4 bowler argument, at this point, most would unequivocally
pencil in Mashrafee Mortaza, Md. Rafique and Shahadat Hossain into the 11 for
Lords. The decision is then who from Tapash Baisya, Talha Jubair, Anwar Hossain
and Enamul Haque makes the cut? If one looks at the stats of each they really
do not tell much. For example, look at the performance of our two SLAs in England
in the past.
Granted ODIs are not the same as first class matches, but is there anything
from these numbers that suggest either should play? Of course most know better.
Rafique, with his relentless accuracy, hunger for bowling, deep wells of patience
and, most important, proven track record outside Bangladesh and over a longer
period of time, is a shoo-in. Funny, the same can almost be said about Tapash
Baisya (once he sorts out his no-ball issue). This
thread on the BanglaCricket forum discusses Tapash in more detail.
Going by England's perceived weakness against spin, the 2nd chart seems to
actually suggest otherwise. Most of those visiting spinners - you will notice
- ended up on the losing side. It is true that England has traditionally struggled
in the subcontinent against quality spinners, but then again which team doesn't?
Even the mighty Aussies of present or the dominant Windies teams of yore fell
prey to Harbhajan, Hirwani et al. England's weakness (in England) is actually
against wrist spin, more precisely those dispensed by a certain Warne. (Do also
witness the success of Mushtaq Ahmed and Upul Chandana at the county level).
Even Daniel Vettori, the man whose bowling style Enamul resembles in terms of
use of flight, loop, angles, etc. has not done much against the English team
in their own backyard.
Conclusion? 3 Pacers and 1 Rafique it is!