12:00 AM, February 21, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 21, 2011

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011Opinion

Between a rock and a hard place

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Much of the debate surrounding the fall-out of Bangladesh's loss to India in the opening match of the World Cup on Saturday has centered on the decision of captain Shakib Al Hasan to field first after winning the toss.
The rationale behind the thinking of those who opposed the captain's choice was that given India's behemoth of a batting line-up, handing them first use of the wicket would be folly because they could have put the game out of reach in the first innings itself.
It is a reasonable argument and one that was vindicated by what transpired, as Virender Sehwag plundered 175 in India's mammoth 370 to all but seal the result in the first two hours in front of a raucous home crowd.
So dominant were the team in blue that by the time Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes came out for first strike of the second innings the game was well and truly up.
But while it is easy to blame everything on the toss, it is sometimes worth it to consider the thought process behind the decision of the captain and his management team.
As many have suggested, Shakib and Jamie Siddons must have been swayed by the statistics at the venue where teams batting second have almost always seemed to have an advantage, due to the seemingly small but not inconsiderable factor of the dew.
In truth, Shakib and Siddons were probably even more affected by the result of a game played at the same venue a little over a year ago.
On January 7, 2010 Bangladesh faced India in the third match of a tri-nation tournament also involving Sri Lanka. What is interesting to see is the similarity in personnel of both sides. Most of the members of the squad who played Saturday's World Cup game were also around in that encounter.
On that occasion too, Shakib called the coin correctly.
That time though, he chose to bat and his decision was seemingly validated as the Tigers put up (for them) a massive 296 off 50 overs. And that was not all. Tidy fielding and good bowling had the Indian's reeling at 51 for 3 at one stage, before Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni took the match away from Bangladesh with some fine batting aided by the inability of the Bangladeshi spinners to grip the ball properly due to the dew.
The fall-out from that game was almost as intense as this World Cup encounter.
Shakib was posed a dizzying array of questions and was heavily criticized for choosing to bat when the dew was such a defining factor.
On that occasion, The Daily Star called it “a surprise decision” because “win the toss, bowl, win the game has almost become a motto in the tournament due to the dew factor.”
Nor were they the only newspaper to condemn Shakib. The Daily Prothom Alo were also scathing while Cricinfo said that “even 296 wasn't enough to counter an in-form batting unit and a familiar foe called dew.”
So, not far removed from that day, Saturday's press conference and Sunday's headlines must have been for Shakib, a case of 'damned if I do, damned if I don't.'
The fear is that with so much negatives directed at him, Shakib might be influenced enough to take the wrong decision in a match where the stakes are higher.
Bangladesh need to win three games to reach the quarterfinals. India, thankfully, was not one of those games. At this point, we must not lose focus. Ireland await next, and if Shakib does manage to choose the coin the right way in that game, he should not hesitate to tempt the wrath of the press and bat second.

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