CHITTAGONG - Test cricket's under-achievers New Zealand and Bangladesh will strive to resurrect their fortunes after a dismal run when they open a two-match series in Chittagong on Wednesday.
Bangladesh are tottering at the bottom of the Test table, lower than fellow wooden-spooners Zimbabwe, after losing eight of their last 11 matches and with just one win in the last three years. New Zealand are ranked just above Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in eighth place, having suffered 10 defeats in their last 16 Tests. Their lone win in this period came against Sri Lanka in Colombo in November 2012.
Skipper Brendon McCullum and coach Mike Hesson will hope to build on New Zealand's overwhelming unbeaten record against Bangladesh, having won eight of nine Tests so far and drawn one. But McCullum admitted the embarrassing 4-0 rout suffered by the Black Caps in a one-day series in Bangladesh in 2010 still haunted the tourists. "That series was a good lesson of what not to do," McCullum said. "It still hurts. It was a damaging tour for many people. It hurt a lot of people's careers and hurt our country as well.
"The big challenge for us is to ensure we get a series win across all three formats of the game. That's our expectation and we are better prepared for it." When New Zealand last played a Test series in Bangladesh in 2008, they won 1-0 following a hard-fought three-wicket victory in Chittagong after being set a fourth-innings target of 317. Inspirational all-rounder Daniel Vettori, who scored a match-winning 76 in that game, is absent this time after undergoing surgery on a troublesome Achilles tendon.
The Black Caps, who will also be without batsman Martin Guptill and seamer Tim Southee, have called up uncapped leg-spinner Ish Sodhi and all-rounder Corey Anderson for the series. "Sodhi has a big opportunity to make his debut," McCullum said. "As Vettori said, he is an incredible talent. He's a rough diamond at this point in time. I want to protect him by giving the right fields." The tourists' preparations for the first Test have been hampered by bad weather, which forced their lone three-day practice match in Chittagong to be abandoned without a ball being bowled.
Rain has been forecast for the entire week, leaving the ground staff at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium worried as they prepare for the first competitive game on the newly-laid surface since the pitch was dug up in 2011. The hosts have recalled left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak after a two-year absence at Test level, and also brought back batsman Anamul Haque, 20, who missed the previous series in Zimbabwe due to college exams.
Bangladesh have also included rookie all-rounder Marshall Ayub, 24, and seamer Al-Amin Hossain, 23, in their squad following the duo's consistent performances in domestic cricket. Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim said the one-day success against the Black Caps in 2010 will count for little when the Test starts on Wednesday. "We are obviously motivated by that win, but Test cricket is different," Rahim said. "The bigger challenge is with ourselves, rather than against them, because we are playing Tests after nearly six months.
"We are trying to work a lot more on our Test cricket. We seem to play well on the first three days, but then lose out because we can't keep up the momentum on the last two days. "Hopefully we can play well for the entire match and be as consistent as possible." The second Test will be played in Dhaka from October 21-25, followed by three one-day internationals and one Twenty20 game.