Rigid Tigers let SL escape
Bangladesh are yet to come out from the typical mentality of hiding left-arm spinners against left-hand batsmen and it proved costly once again in their virtual semi-final encounter of the tri-nation T20I Nidahas Trophy against Sri Lanka at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo yesterday.
Despite a brilliant start after electing to field -- with Sri Lanka at one stage teetering on 41 for five inside nine overs -- but skipper Shakib Al Hasan, making a comeback to the side, opted for that inexplicable strategy when he saw left-hander Thisara Perera walk to the crease to join left-handerdKusal Perera.
Shakib, who provided the first breakthrough by dismissing left-handed opener Danushka Gunathilaka, had bowled two overs by then and conceded just nine runs.
Left-arm spinner Shakib did not bowl another over in the match, nor did he introduce the other specialist left-arm spinner Nazmul Islam throughout the innings. Nazmul was economical in the previous game against India, conceding 27 runs from his four overs and more importantly managed to bowl 12 dot balls against a left-hander like Suresh Raina.
The theory behind the strategy of not bowling a left-arm spinner is that it's easier for a left-hander to hit with the spin against a left-arm spinner who turns the ball into the batsman.
But when a side is struggling on 41 for five, even if there are two left-handers at the crease the captain must have the courage to introduce his most economical bowler of the previous game; which arm he bowls with should not matter if he can land it in the right place. A left-arm spinner can counter that perceived disadvantage by bowling around the wicket.
Despite being an experienced campaigner, Shakib was reluctant to take the challenge by himself or give the ball to Nazmul.
It was not the first instance of this unusual strategy from a Bangladeshi captains. Former captain Mushfiqur Rahim committed exactly the same error and paid a heavy price against the same opponent in 2014 during the second T20I in Chittagong.
Defending the target of 121 runs Bangladesh managed to made a good start as Sri Lanka were struggling on 59 for 6 inside 11 overs and then skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza opted for the same strategy.
Shakib and another left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny had two overs each, conceding only eight runs in their first spell, but neither bowlers came on to bowl as there was a left-hander in the form of Thisara Perera at the crease.
The ploy failed as Perera took the game away from the Tigers and remained unbeaten on 35 off 28 balls to eventually win the game by three wickets in the very last ball.
It was almost the same scenario for the Tigers yesterday, except there was the addition of a left-hander in the form of Kusal Perera. The pair played excellently to add adding 97 off 61 balls for the sixth wicket, both players striking.
However, Tigers' rigidity helped the duo in their endeavours. It is especially surprising as they were in a dominant position when Shakib chose to retreat into his defensive shell.