‘Mustafizur has potential to bring the ball back in’
The upcoming three-Test tour of Sri Lanka could see Bangladesh welcomed on a pace-friendly wicket -- as the Sri Lankan media indicates. If that is the case, is the pace unit of a usually spin-heavy Tigers ready to embrace the challenge? Bangladesh's fast bowling coach Ottis Gibson talks about that and more during an interview with The Daily Star's Ekush Tapader.
The Daily Star (TDS): There has been a long break. How do you see Bangladesh's pace unit right now?
Ottis Gibson (OG):Yes, it has been a long break. But as far as our bowlers are concerned, we have been in constant contact with them with the fitness program. And once we have enough time and once they are fit enough, we can add on the cricket basics to their fitness level at the end. The medical team also has been keeping a close contact with the players. The BCB has put in a really good programme for the bowlers and all the bowlers are coming in different facilities and bowling a lot of overs and sending them [through videos] to us and we are able to monitor their work. Of Course they will still need to be match-fit but that will come once we start the camp.
TDS: Mustafizur Rahman was not included in BCB's red-ball contract. But recently selectors had mentioned that they were considering him for Tests as well. What is the key for Mustafizur being considered for Tests now?
OG: Obviously Mustafizur is a quality bowler. And him being left-handed gives us an option. So we have spoken about him and about using his left-handed quality in Test cricket. We have tried to see if we can get him up to speed for Test cricket; upgrade his skill in terms of swinging the ball back in and him being more patient as it is required in Tests. He has shown keenness to get involved in Test cricket and therefore we have to try and see how much we can put into him workwise to see if we can get him up to Test-match standard. He is a quality white ball bowler but we want to see if we can make him a quality Test bowler as well.
TDS: There was an issue regarding Mustafizur that he is not able to swing the ball into the right-handers. Has there been any improvement on that?
OG: Yes, there was this issue before I got here. I was only able to spend little time with him during the Zimbabwe series. He was not playing the Zimbabwe Test series but we kept him with the team so that I could monitor him closely and work with him. And he has shown the potential to swing the ball back in. And in the ODI in Sylhet, he should have had an LBW wicket as the ball swung back in and hit the batsman in the front but he did not appeal. I don't think he believed in himself that he could swing the ball back in but the ball certainly swung back in. So the early signs are that he can swing the ball back in and that's why we want him around the Test squad so that he can continue to do that.
TDS: Sri Lankan selectors told media that they were going to prepare pace-friendly wickets for Bangladesh. What is your thought on that? Is that a 'false threat'?
OG: We don't know that [if Sri Lanka will prepare a pace-friendly wicket]. What we can do is prepare ourselves for whatever the condition. It will be a plus for us if we can take a squad of 20 players that may include four, five or six fast bowlers as we have a few quality fast bowlers. And I hope that they prepare pace friendly wickets so that our bowlers can exploit those conditions.
TDS: Do you think Bangladesh's current pace unit will be able to take 20 wickets?
OG: In the sub-continent it will not be only the pacers who will be taking all 20 wickets. For that we need to put up a decent bowling unit that will also include a spinner. We have a couple of quality spinners and I believe Shakib [Al Hasan] should be back by then so he will add some quality in our bowling attack. I believe in bowlers that we have got. Taskin [Ahmed] has been looking really good recently. We have Rahi, Ebadot and Hasan Mahmud can be a fantastic young cricketer. So we have fast bowlers who can take wickets but it is the bowling unit that needs to take 20 wickets. And I don't think we will ever play four fast bowlers. We might play three fast bowlers and I believe those three fast bowlers will have an impact in the game if the condition suits.
TDS: Recently Sri Lankan players participated in a longer version domestic tournament. Do you think that they are better prepared than Bangladesh?
OG: We have not played any cricket -- not even domestic -- since March. The Sri Lankan players have been practising for a long time. So they are ahead of us in terms of preparation. But once we get to Sri Lanka and give ourselves enough time to practice, we will soon get up to speed. Over the five days of a Test, if we apply ourselves and play our best cricket, I feel like we can be a match for them. It is a series that we feel we can win.