DHAKA: Bangladesh’s struggling cricket team are battling injuries ahead of the formidable challenge of hosting Pakistan for a two-Test series beginning on Friday in Chittagong.
Star players Shakib al-Hasan and Tamim Iqbal are sidelined, added to a lack of confidence in the camp after losing eight straight T20 internationals, meaning Pakistan will start as overwhelming favourites.
The visitors completed a clean sweep 3-0 in the preceding T20 series but will be without leading spinner Yasir Shah, who has been nursing a thumb injury since September.
The leg-spinner has been a key bowler for Pakistan since 2014, taking 235 wickets in 46 Tests.
All-rounder Shakib suffered a hamstring injury against the West Indies in Sharjah last month that ended his T20 World Cup, but he had been included in the Test squad in the hope that he would regain his fitness.
But Bangladesh’s chief selector Minhajul Abedin said on Tuesday: “Shakib hasn’t recovered from his injury yet. He needs further rehabilitation. Our physiotherapist is constantly taking care of him.”
Tamim was left out of the Test squad as he recovers from a finger injury and is unlikely to resume training until next month, said a Bangladesh Cricket Board official.
Minhajul was confident Bangladesh would be able to make up for the absence of Shakib.
“We have options in the spin department as well as in pace. The team for the first Test is made up of cricketers who have been playing together regularly and they know the demand of Test matches,” he said.
“Pakistan are a formidable team but we are confident that Bangladesh will be competitive if we are disciplined and patient.”
Pakistan will replace Yasir with the 36-year-old Bilal Asif, who played the most recent of his five Tests in 2018.
“We have experienced players for the Test matches, we want to just carry forward the momentum,” said Pakistan captain Babar Azam after sweeping Bangladesh in the T20 series.
Pakistan have played 10 Tests against Bangladesh, winning nine.
Bangladesh’s only draw came in 2015 when Tamim scored a maiden Test double hundred in a record 312-run opening stand with Imrul Kayes in the second innings in Khulna.
The second Test will start in Dhaka on December 4.
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan, Abdullah Shafique, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Bilal Asif, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Kamran Ghulam, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Zahid Mahmood.
Bangladesh squad: Mominul Haque (captain), Shadman Islam, Saif Hasan, Najmul Hossain, Mushfiqur Rahim, Liton Das, Nurul Hasan, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Nayeem Hasan, Taijul Islam, Ebadot Hossain Chowdhury, Abu Jayed Chowdhury, Yasir Ali, Mahmudul Hasan, Rejaur Rahman, Shakib Al Hasan.