Another half-baked plan backfiring on Tigers
Looking on from the other side of the West Indies heist in the final day of the Chattogram Test, it would be easy to question the quality or capabilities of Bangladesh's Test side. There is, however, a far more seminal causality to such results as the Tigers were once again hounded at home by a visiting side they perhaps did not fully appreciate in terms of strength; results at home Tests against Zimbabwe and Afghanistan come to mind. This result was resounding to say the least. More often than not, in the game's longest format, the Tigers are losing out on finding meaning even in victory.
Take nothing away from the indomitable spirit that Windies have shown in this Test nor how Kyle Mayers went against the grain and kept going to complete what was a monumental task. For four days, the Tigers had remained on top of things but brisk swift gale wind took the match away from them inside a day.
It would be hard to miss the fact that a win was taken for granted. As skipper Mominul Haque had said following the match, at no point in time had the thought of defeat came to their minds. It could be construed as optimism or positivity but coming from one of the team's think tank, it also signals underlying complacency.
In another scenario, with ace all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan not being injured and Mustafizur Rahman not being warned, a different outcome was plausible but that would still have seen the problem carry on to the next match -- that dependency and not knowing of a Plan B when their Plan A was not working.
Even in planning, what the Tigers attempted was half-hearted which went behind their current fitness or stamina level not being up to five-day Tests. The players looked tired and uninspired on day five and the team's tactical viewpoints in planning for the match compounded that issue.
Shakib, who had previously suffered an injury during the ODIs, and Mustafizur, who had returned to the Test line-up after being dropped in home Test against Afghanistan in September 2019, were both included in the line-up. Based on form, the selections make perfect sense but there were other things that could have been considered. Picking a line-up with four spinners, maybe there was a belief that Shakib will not have to be bowling at his peak. With only seamer in Mustafizur, who became less effective after getting his second warning for treading on the danger zone, the Tigers had no real threat to claw at Windies on the last day.
Most uninspiring of all was that the Tigers banked on their remaining three spinners, who can quickly turn ineffective in a pitch not tailor-made to their quality; Taijul Islam alone bowled more than 75 overs in the match. Bangladesh had five seamers in the squad, yet, for all the talk of giving opportunity to pacers, they picked just one. It backfired immensely.
"What happens is that when there is turn in the wicket or there is unusual behaviour from the wicket, we bowl with a lot of motivation. But what about a plan B when the wicket is behaving alright? There was a lacking there," Nazmul Abedeen Fahim, a mentor to many of the stalwarts such as Shakib and Mushfiqur Rahim, told The Daily Star while analysing the match.
Asked about picking just one pacer, he said: "Obviously picking one pacer was not good enough. We should have had two pacers and also wickets should be such where they can have an impact. What happens is that, with Tests taking place after such a long time, it demotivates pacers when they aren't picked and wills them towards shorter versions like T20s."
One cannot simply plan a Test line-up with half-hearted motivation of what they want to achieve not in terms of results but of process. "We had assumed that we will win and that they [Windies] were not strong enough. In the recent past, we have seen how India, despite being bundled out for 36 runs, won the Test series in Australia. It should be a big lesson for everybody. Historically, there is no limit to what will happen or not," Fahim opined.
This is not the first time this sort of half-baked plans backfired on the Tigers. The thinking mirrors what happened against Zimbabwe in 2018 or Afghanistan more recently where they focused too much on how much the pitch will deteriorate and banked on spin. It is a perpetual loop that has gone on and must be reconsidered.