Top-order debacle proving Siddons’ biggest challenge
Bangladesh's batters had shown the approach needed in Tests in alien conditions during their win in Mount Maunganui in January this year and executed a plan as a unit against the Kiwis, who boast arguably the best pace attack in the world in their home conditions.
But that famous win, instead of becoming the catalyst for how Bangladesh would approach Test cricket, became an anomaly. Subsequent Tests have seen batters fail to find the same mindset and approach.
Before the New Zealand Tests at the start of the year, team director Khaled Mahmud was able to drill into the players the most important basic of leaving deliveries in those foreign conditions and it culminated in the Tigers' first win in any format against the hosts in their own den.
But the most recent batting debacle in Windies, which comes after similar collective failures from the batters against South Africa away and Sri Lanka at home, led Test skipper Shakib Al Hasan to admit that the team did not have many technically sound batsmen. But there also seems to be a collective failure to adjust to different challenges.
Former national captain Naimur Rahman Durjoy lamented the lack of that attribute. "If you bowl in a conventional process in Tests like you do in T20Is or ODIs, it will not bring results. A delivery which behaves a certain way at home will not behave the same on the wickets in the West Indies or South Africa. You need a different approach and strategy for those conditions. You have to create your luck with more focus," he told reporters yesterday.
Whereas a team director had ingrained certain tactical and mental mottos in New Zealand, the majority of batters have not shown the requisite approach on subsequent tours, even with Jamie Siddons in the team management after returning as batting consultant following his stint as the Tigers' head coach from 2007 till 2011.
Former captain Akram Khan felt there were real dangers of becoming mentally unsettled if batters did not respond collectively. "In shorter formats, you can recover in two-three overs. But in Tests, you have to pull up collectively as a unit. If we let them dominate, our performances will keep being bad," he said yesterday. "The players will have to be mentally at ease and not take pressure."
When asked about change in approach compared to the Mount Maunganui Test after the top-order's collapse in South Africa, batting consultant Siddons had said that players were advised to play their own game. "Everyone is encouraged to play their own game. If they see a ball that's there to be hit, they are encouraged to play aggressively," he had said.
It is not clear from Bangladesh's approach what their natural game might be. More to the point, several batters have shown obvious weaknesses to certain deliveries. Najmul Hossain Shanto has been troubled by incoming deliveries. The use of wobble seam has left batters wondering how to rectify their approach.
"There is a mental readiness needed. You can't always rely on the seam position out of a fast bowler's hand as the only cue on how to play a delivery. If in doubt, the instinct is to cover the line of stumps and go from there. They [batters] need to back their own beliefs since bowlers don't even know how the ball may behave [when bowling with a wobbling seam]," Nazmul Abedeen Fahim, a mentor to many national team stars, told The Daily Star yesterday.
In this situation, it remains to be seen whether the team management, especially the batting consultant, can get batters back to their roots and solve their issues against swing or wobble seam deliveries and prepare for further challenges.