The Bangladesh team think-tank seemed to take a U-turn when they fielded only one seamer in Al-Amin Hossain in the second Test against Sri Lanka yesterday; the first such instance in the team's Test history. In the first Test in Mirpur they had departed from their two-pacer tradition by picking a third seamer -- here they took a step in the other direction. The move surprised everyone, including Sri Lanka batsman Dinesh Chandimal .
“Yes we were all surprised with one seamer. Normally in Test cricket, in any condition, any team will bowl two seamers,” said Chandimal at the post-day press conference when asked about the Tigers' ploy.
Mahmudullah Riyad also fielded questions about the strategy. “I think the team management -- coach and captain -- did what they thought would be good for the team. There is no swing or bounce so we thought we should use an extra spinner. We took another option. Team did what is best,” said the former vice-captain.
Chief selector Faruque Ahmed echoed Riyad's sentiment.
“You can think about a lot of 'ifs and buts' after watching the match but before the match you have to take a decision on a particular plan,” said Faruque when asked whether he felt after watching the first day's play that it would be have been much better if another pacer was in the team.
According to a team insider, the management respected the wishes of captain Mushfiqur Rahim. One wonders whether this desperation to prolong the batting line-up is a return to a more defensive mindset. The three pacers' performance in Mirpur was nothing special, but playing with the solitary seamer means a team forgoes the option to change gears in tough times. Bangladesh might have made the first mistake by leaving out a recent performer like Robiul Islam and might have just settled for the omission of the struggling Rubel Hossain.
But even if Rubel Hossain had remained, his ability to swing and skid the old ball could have proved a good option for the captain. Mushfiqur did face certain problems yesterday, especially when Jayawardene and Sangakkara were on the field, with the batsmen having gotten used to the repetitive style of spin bowling.
The coming days will tell us if the unusual bowling make-up will pay dividends or not. However, the basic point remains that no matter what the bowling strategy, Bangladesh need plenty of work in their bowling department; as their recent performances, whether on responsive or non-responsive pitches, have been nothing less than ordinary.