Many may blame Bangladesh’s abject performance in the three-match ODI series in Sri Lanka on their on-field actions but perhaps the cricketing problems has their roots in a lack of clarity when it comes to game planning, thought process and their execution by the team management.
After defeat in the second ODI on Sunday, which cost Bangladesh the series with yesterday’s third ODI still to be played, stand-in captain Tamim Iqbal defended interim head coach Khaled Mahmud, saying that he tried something out of the box but things did not go in their favour.
‘Out of the box’, however, probably does not mean taking decisions devoid of cricketing logic, but instead adopting an unusual method that is the result of proper planning and belief in the process.
When it came to the game plan and forming a playing eleven for the third and final ODI to avoid the humiliation of a whitewash against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh surprisingly opted to pick four genuine bowlers and three wicketkeepers.
Left-arm seamer Mustafizur Rahman suffered a niggle during the warm-up before the start and was replaced by Rubel Hossain while Mosaddek Hossain made way for Anamul Haque, who became the third wicketkeeper-batsman alongside Mushfiqur Rahim and Mohammad Mithun.
Soumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah Riyad were considered the fifth bowling option, but that could not have provided much assurance as the latter is recovering from a shoulder injury and has had to adopt a rather awkward round-arm action.
Anamul made a comeback to the team after last playing an ODI in July 2018, and opened the innings with regular opener Soumya batting at number three. Mohammad Mithun, who failed to make an impact in the first two ODIs at number three, was still kept present, only to prolong the batting order.
It was unclear what the cricketing reasons were to drop Mosaddek, who has been able to provide the odd breakthrough as well as bowl his off-spin with control and is also handy with the bat in the lower middle order.
Before that, on the field, Shafiul Islam provided an early breakthrough by getting rid of the in-form Avishka Fernando for six and the bowlers managed to keep things tight for much of the first 20 overs. The broke a threatening 83-run partnership between Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera, dismissing both players in successive overs to bring the score to a wobbly 98 for three in the 22nd over. Things changed dramatically for the visitors from there.
Bangladesh were severely hampered by a lack of options and Mahmudullah was able to bowl only three overs that went for 22 runs, leaving Tamim helpless to put pressure on the Lankan batsmen.
Many will blame Bangladesh’s death-overs bowling as they conceded 106 runs in the last 10 overs after Sri Lanka seemed at one point to be eyeing a total near the 260 mark. However, the end-overs carnage was on the cards as the home side knew the opposition’s slim resources and waited to launch the offensive, eventually swelling their total to 294 for eight.
It seems that sacrificing a player who gave them an extra bowling option was to prolong the struggling batting order. But it is an indication on how muddled the team management’s thought process was because the bowling has been a much bigger concern for Bangladesh for a longer span – from the start of the World Cup. Bangladesh’s top order failures in the series seemed to have swayed the team management into taking a defensive decision rather than go all out in search for a winning end to a sordid series.
The inclusion of all-rounder Forhad Reza or pacer Taskin Ahmed in the squad does not make sense if the think tank does not have the belief in those players. Forhad had previously been on the Ireland tour but did not play a game.
Overall, the poor planning and approach was reflected in the body language of the Bangladeshi cricketers. The muddled mindset has been evident throughout the series, and the only surprise yesterday would have been if the Tigers finished on a winning note.