Sports, Cricket

Bangladesh have a legspin problem and their system is to blame

Published : 06 Mar 2023 08:38 PM

Adil Rashid dominating Bangladesh in the first two ODIs isn't a surprise. He is considered one of the best wristspinners in the world and he had helpful conditions to bowl in. He was also up against a batting line-up that isn't strong against legspin. Wristspinners like Rashid Khan, Kuldeep Yadav, Yasir Shah and Adam Zampa have troubled Bangladesh in the recent past.

Rashid dismissed four middle-order batters in the second ODI, removing Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Afif Hossain and Mehidy Hasan Miraz. He was crucial in the first ODI too, taking 2 for 47, a spell that brought England back in the game.

Bangladesh's problems against wristspin aren't new. Kuldeep spun them out in Chattogram in December, Zampa was successful in the T20I series in 2021, and Rashid did it in September 2019.

Their problems stem from the paucity of wristspinners in Bangladesh. Finding a needle in a haystack is easier than spotting a legspinner in the country. Jubair Hossain was only the second legspinner ever to play for Bangladesh but lack of game time in domestic cricket cut short a promising career. He has now been reduced to mostly being a net bowler whenever Bangladesh need one ahead of a home series. Aminul Islam Biplob played a little more than Jubair, and he isn't even a full-time legspinner. He is a batting allrounder whose legspin was noticed in the nets by chief selector Minhajul Abedin a few years ago, around the time former Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo was in the hunt for wristspinners. Biplob is currently scoring some runs in domestic cricket and his legspin has been shelved for good.

Bangladesh's talent pipeline depends heavily on Dhaka clubs, whose officials (owners) and coaches don't believe in wristspin. They rely largely on left-arm spin and that has had an impact on first-class and T20 cricket too. Therefore a top batter gets to face only a few deliveries of legspin per season in competitive matches.

Bangladesh have been reluctant to change this culture, but their current opponents England were in a similar place around eight years ago. Among the major changes to their limited-overs set-up after 2015 was Eoin Morgan and Trevor Bayliss bringing Rashid's legspin back as a wicket-taking option. Rashid flourished as a result and grew into a world-class legspinner despite being absent from international cricket between 2009 and 2015.

After Rashid's success, England have introduced more legspinners in the last few years, including 18-year-old Rehan Ahmed, who is in line for an ODI debut in Chattogram on Monday. In contrast, Bangladesh did not give their only legspinner of note in the last decade much of a chance. Back in 2014, Jubair was caught in a tug-of-war between Bangladesh's head coach Chandika Hathurusingha, who was keen on developing the legspinner's skills, and domestic coaches who simply refused to give him opportunities. His confidence was so badly dented that he bowled a delivery that bounced twice on T20I debut.

Given wristspin's prominence around the world, Bangaldesh have no easy answer to the problem of their batters struggling against legspin. They aren't close to developing one of their own either. Former Sri Lankan left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who is Bangladesh's spin-bowling coach, has four legspinners in the nets during the series against England, including Biplob.

"There's always a process, which is why (Rishad and Biplob) are with the national team," Herath said. "When they are having practice with us, they will learn a lot of things.

"We need to understand the resources we have at the moment. If we don't have it, we need to find ways to get the best out of them. That's why we are working with Rishad and Biplob, so hopefully they will get better and be prepared for the challenge."