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Don’t you just hate it when you endlessly wait for something and then after it arrives it throws you off guard and disappoints beyond anything? As the fans are recovering from the abject performance of the team in the first Test, Rinat Haque pens an entry by being a little critical, and just a little bit fanatic.
A little critical and just a little fanatic
by Rinat Haque
Published: 2nd February, 2014
Don’t you just hate it when you endlessly wait for something and then after it arrives it throws you off guard and disappoints beyond anything?
The wait does not seem nearly as painful as the outcome when this happens. Along with most Bangladeshi cricket fans, I am in the same situation. I wish I could go back to those last few weeks before the first test match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Ah, all those speculations about the results, analysis on possible game plans, predictions on individual milestones and most of all endless arguments on team selections! What did we get in return? One of the most humiliating loss in the history of Bangladesh test cricket and that too on our very own home soil. I am sure I am not the only one who gave up watching the match and decided on retiring all together as a fan. But it only took as little as the late blitz by Al Amin to come straight out of retirement. This actually made me realize how little it takes to please fans like me.
Right, let’s get down to the “critical” part. Even though, this is not the kind of performance that we see from Bangladesh every day, their attitude towards the game and during the game does reflect the greater issue. The attitude overall was optimistic but not smart. The decision to go with three seamers was optimistic but given the current form it was not a smart move. It is true though that in order to promote the growth and development of seamers, making seamer friendly wicket and giving more seamers the opportunity is good. But, the risk should be more calculated and certainly should not be taken at a time where the odds are high. The odds are even higher when the selectors don’t even pick the top candidates for the job. It makes little sense to pick someone like Rubel Hossain who has one of the worst records in international cricket. His sub per performance in domestics does not support his inclusion either. I feel sorry for Rubel who had a terrific ODI stint against New Zealand and this performance will only ruin his confidence. There were seamers that have marginally better records internationally like Shafiul Islam, Nazmul Hossain and even Farhad Reza who had a terrific BCL very recently. The outcome of the match might still be the same but picking anyone from these three would have been a move forward as Rubel is evidently an underperformer in this format.
The second issue was showing bravado at the wrong time. Shakib and the skipper Mushfiqur Rahim both demanded sporting wicket which was nothing but bravado. Wrong time, wrong place. The whole point of a home soil advantage is preparing conditions suitable for the home team. In this case, neither Shakib nor Mushfiqur or anyone in the team were ready to handle a sporting wicket. Again, over optimism played towards the downfall. Bangladesh was not in a position where they can challenge themselves especially with the ongoing debate of a two tier system. Still It would make some sense if the players got some exposure to this kind of wicket during BCL.
The attitude during the game is what I find most worrying. If someone who does not have the slightest knowledge of our cricket team or our ranking and watches this performance, they will have one of two impressions: either this team took the opposition way too lightly causing their own downfall, or this is a team that is possibly debuting in this format. Neither of these impressions is true. Our batsmen did not bother to play according to the situation but went after the ball whenever they felt like. It’s true, apart from Mushfiqur Rahim, no other batsmen from the lineup have great defensive techniques and they all like to score at a fairly high scoring rate. But hey, at least they watch cricket right? It’s astonishing how these players hope to excel in this format without mastering the basics which is required. Their mindset was wrong, didn’t have any patience, couldn’t offer resistance when the other end was crumbling and even though the condition asked them to simply occupy the crease, they went after boundaries. Even experienced players like Sangakkara and Mahela did not play aggressive cricket which they easily could have judging by their talent and the lack of it on our part. What can coaches do if the players don’t even learn by watching the opponent?
When it comes to bowling, we never really had a bowling army that can claim 20 wickets. And when you score such a low total on your first innings, the opposition will be at ease and that is exactly what happened. Add to that, the inconsistency of line and length guaranteed runs every over without any effort from the batsmen. It’s astonishing how our seamers cannot manage to bowl consistently even without any real speed. Most of the time the seamers bowled an average 120K to 125K and still struggled to find line and length. The way I see it, it is not coaching error but the lack of time spend in nets. Consistency can only be improved through practice. So If I were Al Amin or Robiul, I would stay in the nets for the next three to four days.
I can sit down and pick on every single player in the squad and suggest names whom I think could have made the difference. However, whatever the team combination was, the result is simply unexpected. The team had enough talent and in-form players to bowl out the opposition at least once and score 350+ each innings.
Enough of my “critical” part. To our own defence, this team performed well last year and has the talent to repeat those performances. Even with limitations, the team is very much capable of playing a full five day's cricket which I think should be the goal for now. It is overoptimistic to ask our team to push for wins because they simply don’t have the experience to go that extra mile. A slow and low surface should make it very easy for the batsmen and later on the cracks will assist the spinners. That’s the way to go and that’s how it should go. As the three seamer idea failed, one (probably Rubel) should be dropped to make room for a front line spinner or an allrounder. Personally I would go with Mahmudullah Riyad and the rest of the squad can stay the same. Although, against a heavily packed right hander side, frontline SLAs like Elias Sunny or Taijul Islam can be considered. Fielding will have to improve dramatically and the captain himself needs to improve his role as well as motivate others. The side has some great fielders like Nasir, Mominul, Shakib, Marshal, Gazi and they need to lead the example. Al Amin has been a positive for me from the first test match. He deserved more wickets than he ended up with and he has the ability to take wickets and bowl long spells. As long as he can keep improving, he can secure his slot quite easily mainly due to the lack of competition in this format. Bangladesh will have to prove through their performance and attitude that the last test was indeed an accident and their performance chart isn’t going backwards. Chittagong ground has been a much favorable ground for the team so they will feel a lot more confident playing there.
Its natural to be upset as fans after such performance and it is not a sin to react. However, we forget things very easily. Already fans are recovering from the first test and looking up towards the next one. This shows how passionate and easily satisfied we are. Our players need to realize this and perform accordingly. It would be a poor repayment inded to all those people protesting against the Tier system if the players don’t improve their performance dramatically in the next match.
About the author(s): The author got his passion for Bangladesh cricket from his father who is simply crazy when it comes to cricket. Nothing feels better to him than wearing a counterfeit and strangely colored jersey and walking around in a city thousands of miles away from his native land. One of his lifelong dreams is to watch a Test match live from SBNS. The author is known as rinathq on our forums.