A Test spirit governed by fear
There was no display of effort, perseverance or mental grind befitting of Test cricket by the Tigers in their defeat to Sri Lanka in the second Test in Kandy yesterday, and the sphere of their failures has a lot more to it than the margin of defeat inflicted by the hosts.
While a 209-run defeat is a big one, the basic criteria of lacking the crucial elements of the very nature of Test cricket is what stands in obscure darkness about the Tigers' performances in the longest format. Essentially because a Test is what it often has been, a 'true Test of character', Bangladesh team's entity now is shrouded in fear. They have indeed even turned the meaning of 'positive intent' the other way round, into something borne out of fear.
"We are under a great deal of pressure and the fear of failure is tremendously existing on the team and the individuals," Nazmul Abedeen Fahim, a mentor to some of the most recognised stars in the Bangladesh team, told The Daily Star as he reflected on the second Test.
He did not cite a lack of ability as cause for the latest defeat. "Their [Sri Lanka] players face more difficult game circumstances than our players. We have turned out from easier scenarios or challenges."
Being inside this 'bubble' of facing incompetent challenges, having to bat in batting friendly pitches, bowling well on turning pitches, all lack the ingredients of creating that Test character.
"We didn't have a clear strategy of whether we were playing for a draw or trying to win," Faheem reminded.
Tigers had five-and-a-half sessions to bat in order to get at least a draw but they lacked adaptability.
"No, they didn't play for a draw but there is nothing wrong with that either. If we look at the wicket's nature, only defending for five or six sessions was not the option. If you look at Liton [Das], he tried to stay low profile but it spelled trouble since the ball he got out to, he could have easily turned it to square-leg or swept it. If you allow the bowler to pitch that much further up, it's trouble. There has to be a mixture of offence and defence.
"Every action is a reflection of your mind and when you see someone play, you know who is in control and who is not," Faheem said.
Mushfiqur Rahim resorted to reverse-sweeping in the second innings and Mominul Haque got out to a full-toss in the first innings. Such instances culminated from that governing fear. "You can play a delivery to send a message to the bowler that you are comfortable, which creates pressure on the bowler. In the longer format, if a bowler is hit for even four boundaries, he can get that moral victory and believe that he can get the batsman out."
Joe Root had employed the sweep, getting out of his comfort zone in England's recent series there and scoring big runs. Tigers let inexperienced Lankan spinners dictate terms. "You have to be ready when the ball turns out of the line of the stumps and the requirement is very quick thinking in these situations, agility of playing a fast bowler. Players need to find their limitations and work on it. People have scored runs in far more difficult conditions and it's high time to watch those innings to compare where our batting is," he reflected.