Tigers’ Test Trials: New chance to fix old problems
The Bangladesh national team is gearing up to return to international cricket with their three-Test tour of Sri Lanka in October, which will end around six months of down time in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Before the Tigers return to cricket in their weakest format, The Daily Star attempts to analyse all aspects of their Test cricket, starting the series with their batting department.
|Bangladesh's Last Five Tests|
Won: 1 Lost: 4 Innings defeats: 3
Highest total: 560 for 6 against Zimbabwe
Lowest total: 106 against India
Bowled out below 200: 5 times
Highest run getter: Mushfiqur Rahim, 407 at 67.83, with one century and two fifties. He has the highest individual score of 203 not out against Zimbabwe
Openers disappointed the most as none managed to score a hundred or fifty. Opening partnership averaged only 14.11. A 39-run partnership between Tamim Iqbal and Saif Hassan against Pakistan in Rawalpindi was the highest opening stand.
Bangladesh's performance since getting Test status has been disappointing. The Tigers have won 14, lost 89 and drawn 16 in 119 with a winning percentage of just 11.76 per cent.
Although the Tigers won their most recent Test played against weaker opponents Zimbabwe by a handsome margin of an innings and 106 runs in Mirpur, it came on the back of a six-match losing streak.
Bangladesh posted their third-highest total of 560 for six in their second innings as Mushfiqur Rahim scored his second double ton and became the only wicketkeeper-batsman to score two double hundreds in Tests. Newly appointed skipper Mominul Haque also scored his ninth Test ton in the same innings, and all seemed well for the Tigers in whites.
But concerns remained for head coach Russell Domingo, who previously stated that he wants Bangladesh to develop a Test culture and adapt to their own style in the longest format.
Of the last four losses, three came in heavy innings defeats, two against India and one against Pakistan. The 224-run defeat against the newest Test playing nation Afghanistan, that too at home, was perhaps the most embarrassing of all.
Against Afghanistan, the Tigers' batting department surrendered helplessly against the spinners with the likes of Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi running rampant.
While performances with the willow have been improving at home, bar the occasional embarrassment, Bangladesh's batting has been especially vulnerable away from home and it was evident once again during their two-Test series in India, which was followed by the first Test in Pakistan.
Bangladesh's inability to tackle quality pace bowling was exposed brutally and raised questions about whether the Tigers are yet to adapt to the Test mindset.
In the absence of experienced opener Tamim Iqbal, who opted to skip the tour of India for personal reasons, Bangladesh posted 150 and 213 in the two innings respectively and eventually fell to a crushing innings and 130-run defeat in the first Test in Indore.
Nothing much changed in their maiden pink-ball Test in Kolkata, where the Tigers were unable to post over 200 runs in either innings and the result was also the same.
Bangladesh then travelled to Pakistan without their best performer in Mushfiqur, who opted to skip the tour, but little changed as Bangladesh posted 233 and 168 and fell to yet another innings defeat.
Bangladesh is yet to get a settled opening pair -- the highest opening partnership in the last five Tests was 39, which is a trend that has consistently been putting the middle order under immense pressure.
Tamim needs to take responsibility and guide newcomers like Shadman Islam who impressed at the start of his Test career but was injured during the first Test in India,and is expected to make a comeback in Sri Lanka.
There will also be focus on another newcomer in Saif Hassan who made his debut, replacing Shadman, in Test against Pakistan but could not make an impact.
With a long tour in the offing and with injury concerns in mind, the team management should also have some alternatives rather than putting extra pressure on newcomers. In that respect, Liton Das -- who has been in fine form of late -- can be a handy option at the top.
There is also a challenge for skipper Mominul, who is yet to score a hundred abroad despite a fantastic record at home. With the added responsibility of leading the side, Mominul will have to prove his worth at the top of the order and, more importantly, hold the innings together.
The presence of the dependable Mushfiqur in the middle order lends reliability and the experienced cricketer will surely play a huge role in the batting department.
Young Nazmul Hossain Shanto showed some promise on his return to the Test side in Pakistan, which was followed by the Test win against Zimbabwe, during which he scored a swift fifty. The team management will hope that he starts to fulfil his promise in the middle order.
Mahmudullah Riyad, who was dropped from the Test side against Zimbabwe after his poor run in the longest format, could also be considered in the middle order keeping his experience and ability to perform under pressure in mind.
If Shakib Al Hasan, whose one-year ban from international cricket will be lifted after October 28, can join the side from the second Test, it will be a huge boost for the Tigers' batting department. However, it should also be mentioned that Shakib would be returning to any type of competitive cricket after a year's gap.
The team management also has a tendency to include an extra batsman at number seven or eight as a measure against the dreaded collapse. However, the message from the team management should be that the top six or seven need to do the bulk of the scoring, instead of having failure insurance in the form of an extra batsman, which also has the effect of weakening the bowling attack.
It will be crucial for the selectors to focus on the whole composition of the team rather than relying or waiting for an individual, and building a proper structure of a Test unit.
It is a new opportunity to mend age-old errors -- better late than never.