The biggest challenge for Bangladesh in the first of the two-match Test series against Sri Lanka, starting from January 31 at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium in Chittagong, will be to fill the vacuum left by Shakib Al Hasan.
The all-rounder was ruled out of the first Test after he sustained an injury to the little finger on his dominant left hand while fielding in the tri-series final against Sri Lanka on Saturday. The southpaw did not come out to bat as the home side looked to buckle down and without him the Tigers instead buckled, losing their fourth tri-series final at home by a 79 runs.
The Tests against Sri Lanka were to be Shakib's first assignment since he replaced Mushfiqur Rahim as captain in the longest format of the game and former Bangladesh captain and current chief selector Faruque Ahmed believes it will be a big challenge to form the right team combination in Shakib's absence.
"The most important thing is that you need two players to replace Shakib. We need a bowler and a batsman so the combination will be hampered. And it's a big psychological blow for the team as he is a match-winner and very important player. A very experienced, top class player. But despite the blow, the team has to move forward. Yes there may be some problems in forming the right combination but I think that's a part of cricket and life. It will definitely be difficult," Faruque told The Daily Star yesterday.
According to the 51-year-old, with Shakib around Bangladesh have the luxury of picking an extra spinner or a batsman in the playing eleven. However he prescribed that the home side now bank on their strength, which is batting.
"I think Mahmudullah has the ability of a captain which I felt even two to three years ago in the shorter formats. And he has also captained the side in longer versions as well in the Bangladesh Cricket League and National Cricket League so he has the experience. What I noticed in the shorter version is that he has a good cricketing brain and I think he will be good in the longer version as well," he said.
Another former captain and member of the selection committee, Habibul Bashar, admitted that it would be a tough ask to replace someone like Shakib but believed that the Tigers had the ability to win without their ace.
"Obviously it's a big blow to be missing Shakib for the first Test as he is the most experienced player of the side and one who has the ability to turn things around single-handedly. But it's not like we haven't won any games without him. If the players can apply themselves correctly on the field I think we can beat any side," said Bashar.