The woes of Bangladesh cricket
WITH the conclusion of the three ODIs and two test matches between Bangladesh and South Africa another nightmare for Bangladesh cricket is over. The Tigers have been white-washed by the Proteas in both the series. I had the fortune, or should I say misfortune, of watching the second Test that ended in less than three days with a defeat for Bangladesh by an innings and 48 runs.
Except for the superb spin bowling of Shakib Al Hasan, that got him 6 wickets for 99 runs, and excellent batting of Junaid and Rahim in the first innings, there was hardly anything that could make the Bangladesh fans feel proud.
Defeat is not the point, not even innings defeat. For minnows like Bangladesh, it is neither unusual nor unexpected to suffer an innings defeat on bouncy and fast pitches if the opponent is a team like South Africa.
How did the Tigers (?) take the game? Were they really playing a test match? How can a test team, trailing by 179 runs with three days in hand, explain three run-outs unless it is there to entertain the spectators like clowns in a circus?
How would you explain the performance of skipper Ashraful? Did he ever look like the skipper of a test team and not the leader of a circus party? Why should he ask his partner to run for the second run which was not there, and get him run-out at such a crucial time of the game?
Ashraful took an even a bigger risk of running for a single a few minutes later, to not only find himself being the second run-out but also to end any possibility of avoiding the innings defeat. No wonder Rakibul Hasan, a new comer in the team, was next to repeat the blunder and adds to the misery.
Why did Ashraful begin the third day of the match with pacers from both ends instead of engaging Shakib Al-Hasan (who proved to be the most effective bowler in the whole series) from one end and a pacer from the other end?
One may find my comments on the performance of our players in South Africa too harsh to accept. True, Bangladesh is a young test playing nation, with its players' average age being less than 22. The pitches in South Africa are fast and bouncy, which they are not accustomed to. The Tigers were finding it extremely difficult to negotiate the balls rising from the short-pitched deliveries on a bouncy wicket.
One must not, however, forget that experience-wise Bangladesh is not as young a team as one would think. It had already played 56 test matches prior to the series in South Africa. It has had world-renowned cricketers turned coaches like Gordon Greenidge, Mohinder Amarnath, Mohshin Kamal, Dav Whatmore and now Jamie Siddons as its coach.
With so much exposure, and support from home and abroad, was it unreasonable to expect that they would put up a much better show than they did?
To me, in their body language and performance in the field, Bangladesh never looked like a test playing team. If you talk about game plan, they had none. Except Mushfiq and Junaid no other batsman even tried to play the game in the manner one would expect a test batsman to play.
It is not that the team did not have talented batsmen. Tamim. Ashraful, Junaid, Shakib, Rahim are as talented as any other batsman in present day world cricket. Even pacer Mashrafe, with a little bit of batting lesson, could be a genuine all rounder. What they lacked were confidence, a sense of application, and understanding of the game.
They have yet to understand the difference in approach and the essence of a test match. In contrast to ODIs, a team has to be more concerned about taking or protecting wickets than scoring runs. At no stage of the game did the Bangladesh batsmen looked determined to protect their wickets. Otherwise, why should opener Tamim Iqbal, with two wickets down for only 37 runs, go for a wild on-drive only to be caught?
Anybody who plays cricket knows that test cricket is a game of patience and perseverance. One has to understand the grammar and technique of the game. It is an art, like any other art, that needs to be carefully nurtured and relentlessly practiced. I am not sure how far our boys have been able to learn these basics.
I am not at all pessimistic about the future of Bangladesh cricket. On the contrary, I am a great fan of the Tigers. They are brave, young and talented, and have great potential. With proper training and facilities, and a lot more 3 or 4 days games in domestic cricket, they could soon be a test team worth reckoning with in international cricket. I wish them all success.
One more thing, Mohammad Ashraful is undeniably the most talented batsman in the Bangladesh team. He has proved that he can bat as well as any other world-class batsman. The only problem is that he is not at all consistent. The selectors might as well consider freeing him from the burden of captaincy and allow him to concentrate fully on his batting.