As impressive as the tangible successes on the field over the last two days has been Bangladesh's statements of intent that prefaced the first Test against Australia. The talk of blanking the Aussies 2-0 was not just empty bluster; it conveyed a hard-nosed attitude against the most hard-nosed cricketing tradition in Test cricket. By making such a big statement, the team had set itself up to play uncompromising cricket against a team that takes a mile if given an inch.
And to the Tigers' credit, they backed that bravado up in style for two days of Test cricket, allowing Australia to win just one out of six sessions -- the afternoon session yesterday, and that too marginally. But, with a lead of 86 and just two overs to go to the end of play, which was within touching distance of being reached without loss and with a major psychological advantage over their celebrated opponents, opener Soumya Sarkar yielded an inch.
The young opener danced down the track to left-arm spinner Ashton Agar, eager to hit the ball for a six over long on. The ball did go far, about eight storeys straight up in the sky, and landed in the juggling hands of Usman Khawaja at mid on.
“I was a bit surprised. I understood why he played it, because the man was up a bit and he wanted to take it downtown,” said Agar with a glint in his eye after the day's play. “But at that stage of the game, with the wicket doing what it was doing, it was a bit of a risky shot. And fortunately for me it really paid off and I'm glad he made that mistake.”
Agar said the last bit with a chuckle, indicating just how much succour Soumya's unnecessary adventurism had given the Aussies at the end of a tough day in the office.
Soumya's wild indiscretion may not prove very costly. His inclusion as an opener has always been cloaked in controversy because of his faulty technique against the moving ball, which accounted for his dismissal in the first innings. Counterbalancing that deficiency is his undeniable talent, which was in full evidence in his first scoring shot yesterday -- a rifle-shot cover drive off the speedy Pat Cummins.
In Bangladesh's last Test, Soumya surrendered his wicket with a similar shot against Rangana Herath at the beginning of a tricky chase. It was a Test Bangladesh won, and perhaps that is why Soumya continues to find a place in the first eleven while hardened Test players like Mominul Haque and Mahmudullah Riyad are sitting it out.
In an otherwise uncompromising outlook, it has to be asked whether there is space for emotion behind including a batsman who has failed twice in two Tests to sublimate his baser desires to suit his team's needs. The question becomes louder when both his temperament and technique have proven to be not quite up to the mark for Test cricket.