12:00 AM, November 11, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 11, 2012

Sahara Cup 2012Bangladesh vs West Indies

Can Tigers escape the rut?

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Sakeb Subhan

While Bangladesh have made significant strides in one day international cricket -- a case in point being their fantastic performance in the Asia Cup in March -- when it comes to Tests, the experience for Tiger fans is much like Bill Murray's Groundhog Day, a movie in which the central character is condemned to live the same day over and over again. No matter how hard he tries to break the rut, it's always February 2 when he wakes up.
When Bangladesh take the field on Tuesday in the first Test against the West Indies, spectators will want to see something different. This month marks twelve years since the Tigers played their first Test as international cricket's newest Test nation, and the tale has been a sorry one: three wins, seven draws and 63 losses.
The particularly damning aspect of Bangladesh's Test stats is not their low number of wins -- other teams like New Zealand and Zimbabwe have been as bad if not worse in that regard at a corresponding stage of development -- but the embarrassingly low number of draws.
The draw in Test cricket resembles a middle ground -- a ground two warring sides force each other to occupy because neither is willing to die. It is this very quality that Bangladesh lack and which makes them repeat mistakes over and over again -- amply demonstrated by the dearth of stalemates. It has to do with mental fortitude and discipline. A look back at their Test record will reveal that they have rarely had the reserves of ruthlessness to play well in both innings of a Test, nor have they exerted sustained pressure on the field in the absence of bowlers who can run through sides.
These are problems that they have suffered from for a long time, but unfortunately they do not play Tests regularly enough -- Tuesday will be their first in 11 months -- to put in sustained remedial work.
Even as recently as their last four home Tests against West Indies and then Pakistan in late 2011, these were the very problems that dogged the Tigers' Test fortunes. In the first Test against Pakistan in December 2011, the team were bowled out for 135 before conceding 594 for five. The Tigers rallied somewhat to score 275 in the second dig, but even that was woefully below par. In the second Test Shakib Al Hasan's sublime 144 took the team to a first innings score of 338, but all the good work was undone when they surrendered for just 234 at the second time of asking.
A similarly worn tale was told earlier in the season against their upcoming opponents, West Indies. Having dominated the first drawn Test on a Chittagong crumbler, the Tigers had a rare opportunity to seal a drawn series against a top side when they started the fifth day of the second Test at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium with seven wickets in hand and two batsmen set and on top of the bowling. But Tamim Iqbal jumped out to hit over the top in the third over of the day and was caught at slip and Shakib, after constructing an 88-run partnership with Mushfiqur, tried a cute shot to be caught. The remaining five wickets fell for just 22 more runs.
On the bowling side of things, the Tigers have been known to allow stronger opponents to run up huge totals. A decent bowling attack is either miserly or incisive; a great one is both. A look back at last season's Tests reveals that Bangladesh's is neither. In all innings except the West Indies' first innings on the Chittagong turner, the batting team scored at more than three an over, twice scoring over 4.5 an over. It is understandable that Bangladesh have not as yet unearthed many bowlers who can run through the opposition, but in such situations it is important to create pressure from both ends so that batsmen make mistakes in the absence of 'magic' deliveries. Last season Shakib and Rubel Hossain created some pressure with disciplined bowling, but it was all too often let off by bowlers at the other end. The bowling attack on Tuesday will be much the same as a year before, one can only hope that the lessons have been learnt.
The Tigers will play a Test after an 11-month gap, which two days before a Test is not worthwhile ruing. In the absence of regular Test cricket the team can learn from the last two series, and like Murray's character they will desperately be trying to break the monotony. Judging by the opponent's strength a repeat performance may be on the cards.

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