Mohammad Isam in Dhaka
By taking all 40 wickets in the 2-0 series win over West Indies, Bangladesh’s spinners have now established their ascendancy in favourable conditions. It is the latest proof that they can now push for big wins even when the batsmen don’t entirely contribute. And when they do, as it happened in the Dhaka Test, the spinners can be unstoppable. Mehidy Hasan Miraz took career-best figures of 12 for 117, and found great support at the other end from Shakib Al Hasan, Taijul Islam and Nayeem Hasan. For the first time, Bangladesh didn’t bother picking a frontline seamer in their XI, after the four spinners had combined similarly well in the first Test in Chattogram. There, Nayeem and Taijul starred with five-fors.
Shakib said that he enjoyed watching the West Indies batsmen struggled constantly against the spinners, which he felt also engaged the fielders into making extra efforts.
“I feel good when I see batsmen finding it tough facing every ball bowled by our spinners,” Shakib said. “It energises the fielders too, as everyone then thinks a chance is on the way. I think everyone was on their toes when our spinners were bowling. Enough quality bowlers and pitches that help spinners have combined to give us a formidable spin bowling attack at home.”
Shakib was particularly impressed with Taijul, who finished the year as Bangladesh’s leading wicket-taker in Tests.
“I hope we continue to bowl well against all sides, particularly when we are in form. When you have four spinners in the line-up, at least two are certain to do well. Taijul has had a stellar year with 40-45  wickets. He has bowled consistently well, and he is rewarded for his hard work. I hope he bowls this way next season too. Our team can do well if we get contributions from all the departments.”
Shakib said that Mehidy, who picked his second 12-wicket haul in Tests, must continue making simple plans in order to do better in the future, adding that Mehidy’s first innings 7-for paved the way for the big win.
“He has been bowling well since the second day. I think he can bowl even better if he can think more simply,” Shakib said. “Our plan was to try to hit the stumps all day, and give as little run away as possible. It is important to simplify our bowling plan. I think we become too attacking at times. We expect wicket almost every ball. I think if we can control that thinking, and bowl in partnership, we can do better.
“His first innings bowling was really important and he was outstanding. We never expected to bowl them out so cheaply but that belief returned through Miraz’s bowling. His 7-58 in the first innings really set the course of the match,” said Shakib.
One of the ways in which Mehidy contributed was by removing Shimron Hetmyer four out of four times in the Test series. These were crucial blows as the young left-hander’s attacking style became the only barrier for Bangladesh. Mehidy said that his experience of playing against Hetmyer since their U19 days helped him plot his dismissals.
“I have played against him for a long time. We have played in two U19 World Cups, and now at the international level. I know a lot about his batting, which made planning against him easier and brought me good results,” said Mehidy.
He said that while his 12-wicket haul against England in his maiden Test series in 2016 was a “turning point” in his life, this one is also important as he is now a more well-rounded spin bowler.
“The first 12-wicket haul was a turning point in my life, so that one will be kept ahead. Now I have played for two years, learned a few things from the seniors and feel I am more experienced. I wouldn’t say that this was any lesser as I now know better about bowling against each batsman,” he said.
In the last two years, Bangladesh’s spinners have been instrumental in beating England, Sri Lanka, Australia, Zimbabwe and now West Indies. In these six Test wins, they have bowled well for long periods, triggered quick collapses and delivered knockout punches at crucial moments.
The additions of Taijul and Mehidy have given Shakib a supportive boost after eight years between 2008 and 2016 where he was the talisman. With a perpetually unsettled pace attack, he has had to do the bulk of the work in the bowling department for a long time.
The emergence of Sohag Gazi, Robiul Islam, Jubair Hossain and Elias Sunny had briefly given him hope of a shared bowling workload but neither could stick around for too long. A similar feeling must have followed when Taijul began with a five-for on Test debut in West Indies and took 8-39 against Zimbabwe in his first two months as an international bowler in 2014, or when Mehidy took 19 wickets in his debut Test series against England in 2016.
But both have now proved that they are good enough for Test cricket, and are competent enough to complement each other in helpful conditions. Nayeem’s emergence too must be heartening as it ensures depth in the spin department. The quartet came together to take all the wickets in this Test series and whether they play together in another Test or not, it is an assuring feeling for Bangladesh that they are potent with at least one part of their bowling attack.