Not perfect, but enough value
Bangladesh head coach Russell Domingo recently downplayed performance issues during the BCB President's Cup, citing the lack of cricket in the last seven months as having played a big role in players struggling to get going. However, there were familiar patterns in the performances especially of the top-order batsmen throughout the tournament while the flux of youthful energy in the bowling department may have also piqued national selectors' interest.
Rather than neglecting performance issues of the cricketers following a break, it appears to be more prudent to look at the bright specks in this BCB-arranged tournament since some of the young players who played the tournament may very well form the backbone of the national team in the near future. It essentially became an opportunity for juniors to present their case against seniors who have cemented their places and there were strong arguments from their part as the likes of Sumon Khan, Irfan Shukkur, Towhid Hridoy and Mahadi Hasan impressed.
There were opportunities for experienced ones too. Mushfiqur Rahim gave examples of his ability to thrive in difficult conditions and the rest of the batters' struggles against pace was evident as well.
Pacers had a fantastic tournament with Rubel Hossain topping the wicket-takers' charts, working up some good pace, while his movement with the new ball and variations with the old paid dividends.
While there was disappointment at the consistency of early batting debacles, the bowlers showed consistency in mentality and process with immaculate line and length, aggression and skill. That facet led to the competitive structure, one that makes BCB's first tournament since the coronavirus outbreak a success as match situations tested batters' resilience.
The tournament served as a notice to top-order batsmen as the likes of Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Naim Sheikh, Soumya Sarkar, Nazmul Hossain and Mominul Haque failed to fire even though earlier on in the tournament, the Mirpur wicket had good bounce on offer for batsmen to play shots. The trend was not an unfamiliar one as the national team too have often struggled to get the top order to fire in recent years. Rust was an important factor and one also has to consider that one good delivery can upend a batsman, but the consistency of early debacles should be cause of headache and it may also raise doubts about how hard the bowlers actually had to work to trouble underperforming batsmen. All things considered, the tournament did provide an opportunity to evaluate performances as any competitive setting does and national selector Habibul Bashar was keener to focus on the bowlers' performances rather than disappointing batting displays.
"There is time before our next international assignment in January, so there will be time for batsmen to rectify things. The way I see it, the bowlers performed exceptionally and that is why the batsmen struggled. Both pacers and spinners have been bowling very well and kept a tight leash on batsmen," he said.
"Obviously we didn't expect the batsmen to underperform but it wasn't easy on the slow surface and because of the rust associated with playing after a long time," he added. But in terms of evaluating the future stars? "We're definitely looking at the performances and with the future tournaments coming before next year, we will get to see a lot more," Bashar concluded.
Rust was a key factor but if one looks at the ongoing IPL, it appears that players' preparation has been far from ideal. The key lay in how to mentally prepare to play the game, as Chris Gayle showed after coming back from sickness and hitting a crucial fifty to give his side Kings XI Punjab a much-needed win. Getting cricket back onto the field was BCB's priority but the team selections and balance of the three teams also gives them good ground to evaluate what they saw in this tournament.