Bowlers hurting Tigers | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 24, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 24, 2010

Bowlers hurting Tigers

Imrul, Tamim top batting averages

L-R: Imrul Kayes and Abdur Razzak

Maybe it played on his mind during the 14-hour flight from London, but a dishevelled Mashrafe Bin Mortaza was spot on when he raised "real concern" with the Bangladesh team's bowling after arriving home early on Thursday morning.
To say that Bangladesh's bowling this year has been abysmal, especially in one-day cricket, is an understatement.
When bowling first in 2010, they have literally gone through the ceiling: conceding 309 runs per innings in six matches. In the dreadful Asia Cup campaign, the bowlers gave away 313 and 386 in consecutive games.
And even when the batsmen have amassed 260, 250, 199 (in 30 overs) or even 296, scores that are far higher than Tigers' ODI average (226 runs), the bowlers failed to defend the total.
Wickets, averages, runs per over and strike rates have all taken a hammering this year.
Shafiul Islam, in his first season as an international cricketer, is the second highest wicket-taker with 24 wickets, two behind Shakib Al Hasan. But the paceman gave away an unacceptable 6.91 runs/over, worse than all of Rubel Hossain (6.65 runs), Mashrafe (5.57) and Syed Rasel (6.09).
But the three pacemen haven't entirely been angels either. While Rubel barely takes a wicket per match, Mashrafe also hasn't been his usual self.
The Narail Express, who hasn't played any of the Tigers' seven Test matches due to injuries, has taken just eight wickets at a steep average of 48.12.
His friend Abdur Razzak has also had a poor year. The left-arm spinner's wickets-column has been mostly empty in the 14 matches. His average reads an unacceptable 60.
Shakib, their Khulna teammate in the National Cricket League, has had a less than impressive year with 26 wickets from 19 games at an average of a shade below 32, not exactly what you expect from the number one all-rounder in one-day cricket.
But Mahmudullah Riyad and Syed Rasel probably were the worst bowlers for the Tigers this year with the Mymensingh-born Riyad picking up a paltry four wickets from 19 games while left-arm seamer Rasel took just two wickets in six outings.
In Tests, Shakib leads the pack with 27 wickets but he has bowled below par, giving away 39 per wicket when his career average is around 32, and if Shahadat Hossain hadn't taken the two five-fors, his season figures would have been terrible.
The question of the bowlers' ability can be raised but how does one become the best all-rounder in the world without bowling well? Shakib is perhaps an exception but Shafiul's 24 wickets are not bad for a newcomer while Mashrafe, Razzak and Rasel have played enough to check their slide.
Cynics would say that Jamie Siddons spends all his time with the batsmen but most international teams have a proper bowling coach. The Tigers had Champaka Ramanayake but after his illness, that void has not been filled properly.
Fingers could also be pointed towards the grinding international schedule (29 Tests, ODIs and Twenty20s) and a lengthy domestic season, but in too many matches the bowlers have given away runs at crucial stages or have looked pedestrian after the batsmen had done their job.
Siddons however have done a good job with the batsmen, making sure the bulk of them are averaging over 30. This was something he preached in the team and mentioned tirelessly to the media.
Imrul Kayes is one of those who diligently worked with the Australian for more than two years, have found his mark in the international game.
While his Test credentials could still be questioned, one is tempted to say that Imrul has done justice to the selectors and Siddons for persisting with him. The left-hander is the surprise leader in the pack in one-day cricket with 644 runs with five half-centuries and a century against New Zealand.
Imrul's opening partner Tamim Iqbal is just 30 runs behind in the one-day list, due mainly to his penchant for slogging and throwing away a good start. Indeed, Tamim's ODI average this year looks shoddy when compared to his Test credentials where he has scored 837 runs with three centuries and six half-centuries.
The opening duo's good form has meant that they have made good start for Bangladesh in both formats.
In Tests, the left-handed pair added a century-stand twice and eight 50-plus partnerships in both formats.
And the solid top-order triangle (all left-handed) is complete when you see Junaed Siddiqui's figures and his contribution in huge partnerships as well.
Not a purists' delight, the doughty Rajshahi lad made more runs in nine games than Ashraful in 11 ODIs. He has also done well in Test cricket after a tough 2009, scoring a century and three fifties in six games.
As for his contribution as part of a batting pair, Junaed added 200 with Tamim Iqbal against India and was also involved in a 167-run stand with Mushfiqur Rahim against England in Chittagong.
But the same can't be said about Shakib. After his century against New Zealand and 96 at home against England, the southpaw hasn't done anything of note in Test cricket and in the shorter format, has been averaging less than 25 runs per innings.
His close buddy Mushfiqur Rahim made a brilliant start to 2010 with a 101 against India and then two fifties against England in the Chittagong Test. But in the next three Tests, he has made only 73 runs and with a couple of fifties in one-day cricket, one is inclined to say that the wicketkeeper-batsman hasn't done justice to his talent. Similarly, Riyad has given it away after he hit a peak in three Tests.
As a footnote, Mohammad Ashraful has had better years than 2010, and probably really needs a break after a monotonous streak of 11 one-dayers where he has come up with one half-century. Surely, the most talented batsman of this country needs to rise from the ashes.

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