Culture must change at the top | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 22, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:13 AM, February 22, 2020

Culture must change at the top

Bangladesh head coach Russell Domingo, when asked if the Tigers were desperate to win the lone Test against Zimbabwe in order to end the dismal run in Tests, urged that while a win is always the objective, the mentality and indeed the culture of Test cricket in the country needed to change before the team could compete against the big guns.

Essentially, he talked about a process that would lead to results instead of banking on short-term results that will merely maintain the status quo of the country's cricket.

For a long time, Bangladesh have grappled with the reality of poor Test performances away from home. Without confronting the question head on, the focus was on making up for bad results with wins at home. Home Test wins against England, Australia and West Indies laid further foundation for this way of thinking. Thus the dependence on spin prevailed, with the likes of Australia, England and West Indies more prone to succumb to turning pitches. It also gave rise to further woes with the batting lineup crumbling like a house of cards in away Tests, for instance in the Caribbean or more recently, closer to home in India, where the deck was built for pacers.

"For Bangladesh to improve in Tests, we can't play on raging turners all the time.

"[Spinning turfs] put the bowlers in a false sense of security and they think they are great bowlers. It is a tough thing for the team to come to grips with, but it is something that I am pretty strong about. We need to play on good wickets so that we can develop our game not just in Bangladesh but outside too," Domingo said, essentially putting the problem in bold letters.

He said that results will be important but it will only offer short-term relief. "Winning is of paramount importance but we do need to develop Test culture. We need to put a lot more attention on Test matches," he said.

That was not the be all and end all to the argument of what a change in Test culture entails. A change in the way one prepares and schedules matches is important, but real change that does not fall back on short-termism must offer more than just results and instead usher in concrete processes. Such a change must come from the top, at the board level, and be translated onto the field of play. That process has been missing for a long time. For instance, the whatever-goes line of thinking in team selection policy for every series shows the impotency of the ongoing decision-making structure. Citing the need for 'continuity', the BCB president and head coach had expressed wishes to play the same squad used in the first Test against Pakistan for the next two matches. Touting an intention to keep the same players for just three Tests as continuity reveals much about their understanding, or lack thereof, of long-term planning.

Questions too must be asked why there has not been a cultural change despite such failures in recent past.

BCB President Nazmul Hassan on Wednesday said that he would have to be informed of the decisions the coach and captain take before games, decisions such as the playing 11 and whether the team would bat or bowl first if they win the toss. His interference however, has not brought forth a clear process in the past and is unlikely to bring one at the present. One has to wonder when the last time was that the BCB held a discussion on improving or building Test culture, which is of utmost importance to compete in the most difficult format of the game.

A mindset to compete must come from the top, at board level, since players or coaches do not create a culture; it has to be developed and reinforced with structures and ideas. That is unlikely to happen if focus is merely on short-term impact and shorter versions of the game.

"For the development of the team, we need to have a bigger picture," Domingo said yesterday, but he would know that broad changes need to come from elsewhere, rather than just coach or captain.

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