Bangladesh's growth as a Test team - both home and away - in recent times has given them the confidence to pick 20 wickets against Australia, according to captain Mushfiqur Rahim. He further said that this was the best time for them to face Australia, having undergone much improvement since the last time Bangladesh hosted them, almost 11 years ago. Beating England at home in the second Test last year and Sri Lanka in their 100th Test in March have been the latest examples of Bangladesh's progress, particularly at home where they have been consistent in Tests since 2010. They started by being competitive against England that year and then pushed West Indies, New Zealand and Pakistan. They also swept Zimbabwe clean in 2014 while rain helped them draw Tests against India and South Africa in 2015.
"In the past, we couldn't take the home advantage whether as a batting unit or [through] our spinners," Mushfiqur said. "The visiting team had world-class spinners and batsmen which ended up helping them more. But in the last two-three years, we have been able to do the same. So now, we have the confidence that against a team like Australia, we can play well. We have a number of talented spinners, experienced allrounders and batsmen. I think this is the best time to play against Australia. We have to hope that everyone is fit and we start well."
Mushfiqur said that overseas Tests this year provided him with much-needed knowledge and helped his bowling attack gain experience. Pace bowlers Taskin Ahmed, Subashis Roy, Mustafizur Rahman, Kamrul Islam Rabbi and Rubel Hossain have been rotated on form, fitness and conditions. But Shakib Al Hasan and Mehidy Hasan have enjoyed a more consistent run, playing all five Tests while left-arm spinner Taijul Islam featured in only two.
Mushfiqur said that if he has the full squad available for the Australia series, Bangladesh can put together a combination that is capable of taking 20 wickets in a Test.
"Our bowlers didn't really get pitches suited to their style in New Zealand, India or Sri Lanka," he said. "They took a lot of lessons from those conditions. We also need to consider the gaps between our Test series. In almost every series, we end up with a new bowling combination.
"If we can work with the current bowling unit for at least the next two years, it will help them settle into their roles. I believe we have the variety in Mustafizur, Taskin, Taijul, Miraz and Shakib to take 20 wickets. We also have Rubel, Shafiul and Subashis."
These bowlers are also getting batting lessons as the team management looks to go all out for batting consistency in their line-up. Mark O'Neill, Australia's former first-class cricketer turned coach, will be working to improve Bangladesh's tail-end batting for the series next month.
"I liked speaking to him [O'Neill]. He is reminding us of our basics," Mushfiqur said. "He is working on the lower-order batsmen, who have a role in a Test match. Many teams have lower-order batsmen with an average of 20, so this will help us in the long run. It will help us win or save a Test. As our head coach said, someone new like him may catch something that all of us have missed in our technique."
The captain was also pleased with the training program set up by the management, comprising a two-month long schedule. Those program start off with a focus on fitness before moving on to long hours in the nets. The team moved to Chittagong over the weekend where they will also play a three-day practice match at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, the venue for the second Test against Australia from September 4.
"It is a big opportunity for us to train at the ground where we will be playing the Test," Mushfiqur said. "Our spinners are also getting an idea about the surface in Chittagong, since the soil content is different from Dhaka. They will know their lengths better.
"The practice match is an opportunity for us to find out how our Test XI will be, and I am hoping everyone takes it seriously. I have not seen such a training camp in the last 12 years, and I hope we can make the best use of it."