Dissecting The Test Anomalies
If the first Test gave Bangladesh the belief to dream big, the second taught them a lesson for being overconfident. While the performances in the limited overs format can bring countless accolades for the Tigers, the recently concluded Test series is proof that Bangladesh still have a long way to go in the longer version.
The fact remains that the Tigers were on the backfoot throughout both the Tests. They were bundled out for a below-par score in the first innings of the first Test and had it not been for the unlikeliest of turnarounds, courtesy of a record stand between Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes, there wouldn't have been much of a difference between the results of the first and the second Test.
What made the 312-run opening stand out especially was Bangladesh's poor record for the opening stand. Selectors have used at least seven pairs of openers in recent times and the challenge to find the right pair had become quite menacing.
However, records don't tumble frequently, that's the only reason why they are hailed. While Tamim and Imrul's dashing partnership managed to hide Bangladesh's bowling blues in the first Test, there was no hiding for the bowlers in the second.
In hindsight, this was perhaps the most ineffective bowling attack that Bangladesh had ever fielded in their 15-year Test cricket history.
In the last three years, the highest wicket-takers for Bangladesh have been Shakib Al Hasan (46), Shohag Gazi (38), Taijul Islam (35), Robiul Islam (21) and Rubel Hossain (15). The worrisome fact for the team management is that these bowlers are either out of form or favour.
Shakib took just three wickets in his last three matches and posted his worst ever bowling average (162) in the recently concluded Test series. Despite being amongst the wickets in domestic cricket, Gazi has been out of favour ever since he was reported for his action by the ICC after the West Indies tour last year.
According to selectors, Robiul hasn't been as impressive lately as he was in the past while Taijul and Rubel have been inconsistent. The young leg-spinner Jubair Hossain, who had played an important role in the Zimbabwe series, has apparently lost out quite a bit on his bowling accuracy ever since.
This is a huge problem; and the scenario has, in a way, compelled the team management to field eight batsmen in the last two Tests. The height of desperation was visible when Mushfiqur Rahim, while defending the strategy, reckoned that Soumya Sarkar could play the role of the third seamer.
And the problem doesn't just end there. That the team management believed that bowling first would be the ideal decision despite the heavily biased balance of the team, made things worse.
Yes, Pakistan were on the back-foot going into the series, but to try to intimidate them with just three specialist bowlers in the side was asking a bit too much.
These are certain issues that the leader of the pack, Mushfiqur, who averaged just 11 with the bat in this series, should think about before the lone Test against India in Fatullah next month.
They may employ a similar tactic and get away with it, for Fatullah is known to be as flat as Khulna. However, the defensive strategy has never worked in Mirpur and with South Africa and Australia due later this year, the team management will need to find a solution as soon as possible.
Mohammad Shahid's medium pace has perhaps been the only positive in the bowling department. He ran in with confidence and bowled quite smartly for a debutant.
While Tamim and Imrul will definitely mark this Test series in their diaries, it was a good show from Mominul Haque as well, who became only the fifth batsman to score 50s in 11 consecutive Tests.
While there is plenty of room for improvement in the longer version, the limited overs format saw the Tigers post a nearly flawless performance. The ODI team seems to be balanced from every aspect and its' the all-round abilities of the players that should be credited in this regard.
Sabbir Rahman and Nasir Hossain, for instance, may not have made a mark with the bat in the series, but their fielding and bowling, have saved the team plenty of runs.
With a near-perfect performance in the ODIs, the Tigers would feel that the India series could not have come any sooner.