CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh - Emboldened by their home success in Test cricket, Bangladesh are unfazed by the injury-enforced absence of influential allrounder Shakib Al Hasan for the series against Sri Lanka.
Bangladesh have drawn their last four home series, proving a tough match against India, South Africa, Australia, and England, and beating the latter two for the first time on home pitches. The Bangladeshis even beat Sri Lanka in their 100th test in Colombo, where Shakib played a significant role, as he usually does in their milestone wins.
However, Shakib, also the test captain, injured his left little finger during the tri-nation one-day final last Saturday against Sri Lanka, meaning vice-captain Mahmudullah will lead the side in the first of two tests beginning on Wednesday at Chittagong.
"Losing Shakib is a big blow," Mahmudullah said. "But you have to go ahead accepting all the challenges. If we can execute our decisions positively, we will have a good game. At the end of the day, we all have the opportunity to do something for Bangladesh. We are all very excited."
Mahmudullah believed the team has the depth to cover for Shakib's absence. After he was hurt, with the prospect of missing both tests, the selectors summoned legspinner Tanbir Hayder and left-arm spinner Sunzamul Islam. They, along with offspinner Naeem Hasan, are uncapped, and bump the stock of spinners in the squad to six.
The others are Mehidy Hasan, Taijul Islam, and left-armer Abdur Razzak, who recently took his 500th wicket in first-class cricket but played his 12th and last test in 2014 against Sri Lanka in Chittagong.
"You can guess what is going to happen with six spinners in the side," Mahmudullah said. "We rely on our spinners in home conditions, so we will try to back them.
"I don't think we are favorites (for the series). Sri Lanka have been playing good cricket. But I personally feel that we will be on top on home soil."
But Sri Lanka attacks with spin, too, and have been bolstered by left-armer Rangana Herath and offspinner Dilruwan Perera. When Sri Lanka hosted Bangladesh in a drawn two-test series last March, Herath took 16 wickets and Perera eight. Mehidy and Shakib were Bangladesh's leading wicket-takers, with 10 and nine respectively.
Sri Lanka's confidence is also high after winning the tri-nation final by 79 runs, after starting the series with two heavy losses.
"It has been a really good ODI series apart from the first two games," Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal said. "When you lose the first two games, it gives you more focus going forward.
"This is a new format, and we have Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera. He (Herath) is a wily old fox. He can do what he wants to do. It will be challenging for Bangladesh."