The Tigers' head coach Chandika Hathurusingha, while speaking to the media on conclusion of the New Zealand-Bangladesh cricketing series, gave his assessment of the performances under his mentorship with panache: “It is not all doom and gloom”. Some maybe; for, how could he have sloughed off the effect of eight defeats in a row! “There are a lot of positives to build up on'', he added. One could not have agreed more with him on that, but only wished he had elaborated on 'the positives' keeping the broader picture or the whole team in view.
Actually his words of confidence swirled around, to be exact, two newcomers: Kamrul Islam and Mehedi Hassan. Indeed they showed promise in their first tour of Bangladesh. “How their demeanour changed in the field from the England series to this one”, noted the Bangladesh coach, adding “I can see them learning quickly”. One could not help thinking though that Miraj was not even half as effective in New Zealand as he had been against England. The fury was missing; a large number of runs were scored off his bowling.
This tour has been touted as a ground-breaking one in that five players made their international debut across three formats. In addition, as many as seven embarked on their first tour away from home. All this is fine and dandy but what begs question is: with what outcome?
By being fixated on individuals, the selection procedure was sometimes opaque and to an extent proved counterproductive. But the controversy around team selection does not exonerate top order batsmen of their failings at demanding moments.
We have been rightly critical of individualistic flashes of performances falling short of making partnerships corresponding to fluctuating game situations. The same went for bowling where after an initial or important breakthrough, the charge would fritter away.
Well, it could be argued that a large contingent was taken as an investment in future. Even solvent countries take compact teams because the aim is to remain focused to deliver the goods.
Tamim has taken responsibility for the defeat in the second Test. In two ODIs and one T-20, we came pretty close to clinching victory. For those debacles, would someone come forward and take responsibility thereof? Again, does the matter rest with taking responsibility for a defeat ? What matters is avoiding repeating the same. With competitive games it is counterproductive to be making goody-goody admissions of failure to plaster one's bruised image. The proof of the pudding will always be in the eating, not in its décor.
The plain fact is no sooner had our batsmen adjusted to short balls at good pace, they were upset by deliberately bowled high bouncers one after another as a ploy to ruffle our batsmen. Bouncers are not forbidden but subject to regulations that need to be applied scrupulously so that none is hurt. A line has to be drawn between excitement of the contest and the physical safety of players. When the top quarter of the Bangladesh side was hurt to be hospitalized, the team cohesion broke down. In this dismal injury scenario, it is good to know that pacer Mustafizur is healing to full fitness. Also, Taskin's brilliant bowling in Tests is going to be an asset moving forward.
Mental strength training among the cricketers is emerging as a priority issue with the BCB and perhaps BKSP. This is why - in the opening Test in Wellington , Bangladesh was bowled out for 160 after taking a 56-run lead in the first inning. As though in a pattern, in the second and final 5-dayer in Christchurch, we suffered a similar fate in the second innings eventually capitulating with a day to spare.
We played the New Zealand series after a two-year time lag. But we are well and truly into loaded successive fixtures to be playing with India, South Africa and England –all in 2017. Depending on our performances in these games, our ranking will be determined. This is also key to our heading for the World Cup directly without having to play in the qualifying rounds.
Just see, New Zealand because of their straight wins against Bangladesh have been elevated over Pakistan in Test ranking!
The writer is a contributor of The Daily Star.