Add another loss to an already one-sided table and you get a succinct but objective proceeding of Bangladesh’s 24th loss in the last 25 test matches. What the record books will not say, however, was the quality of test cricket that was displayed in the Bangabandhu National Stadium during the last five days. If test cricket was gauged on sessions, then the Bangladeshis were definitely on par with, if not better, than the tourists. Unfortunately for Bangladesh, it takes only a session to undo three days of solid work and on this particular session, it took only a few deliveries. Nevertheless, we did lose and Whatmore must sit down with his think-tank and analyze where we went wrong. I would say that Whatmore’s post mortem would look something like the following:
The toss: Khaled Mahmud won the toss amidst bright sunshine and promptly decided to bat. Fifteen minutes later, the whole stadium was engulfed with dark clouds making Shujon look like a fool for batting first amidst seamer friendly conditions.
Verdict: Do a Ganguly next time and appear at the toss fifteen minutes late. Not only will you get under the skin of the opposing captain, you will also account for the vagaries of our October weather.
Short Balls and Such: One word: Duck! There were four instances when Bangladeshi batsmen were dismissed by the short delivery, which is a shame really considering the low, slow nature of the wicket. Although it’s admirable to see our batsmen trying to get on top of rising deliveries, that may not be the best option with the ball being new and hard. Particularly worrying is Javed’s technique against the rising delivery. He plays with an open stance and has made it his mission to play every bouncer down to silly mid on. His stance has to change.
Verdict: Have a sit with the front line batsmen. You can’t really teach a compulsive hooker like Shumon not to follow his instincts. What you can do, however, is make it a policy to leave the short ball alone, particularly when the ball is new and when we’re playing bowlers who tire pretty quickly.
Slip Fielding: Once again, while people are obsessed with Ashoka’s contributions to the defeat, we’ve managed to turn a blind eye to our woeful slip performances. Trescothick, Thorpe and Vaughan were all dropped. Although Ashoka might have gifted 40 runs or so to the opposing team, our incompetent slippers have surely given away twice as many.
Verdict: I’ve been harping about our slippers for quite some time now. Having an inefficient slip cordon will not only affect fate of matches in the short run, but will change the length and line of bowlers since they can no longer count on their slippers holding on to edges. We talk about sending our bowlers or batsmen to train overseas, isn’t it about time we do the same thing with our slippers?
Seamers: I can’t recall the last time our opening bowlers have taken a wicket in their first spell. Part of the failure lies with the above mentioned slip debacle. But a large brunt of the blame must surely lie with the impotence of our new ball bowlers. Granted that we’ve been bowling on flat tracks for the last 5 test matches or so but aside from Mashrafee, we’ve haven’t bowled to any kind of game plan where we actually try to use the new ball. The same with this test; having picked two spinners, it looked like that Mashrafe and Co were basically roughing up the new ball for the spinners to use later. Our seamers can take a page out of the books of New Zealand’s Butler and Tuffey who bowled on the most placid wicket in India and impressed everyone with their grit and fire.
Verdict: I’m not looking for Mashrafee and Co to swing the ball around or bounce the batsmen out on our wickets. But it seems like the pacers have already given the game away even before they’ve started their spell. Team policy for pacers should be: if you’re not bowling flat out, don’t play at all.
Lower Order Batting: It was not a Herculean task for the tail-enders to stay at the wicket till lunch on the last day. There was nothing in the pitch and Harmison and Hoggard were already tiring. When Shujon got out for the umpteenth time playing across the line to a straight ball (is there not introspection or team meeting for this guy to rectify his recurring mistakes?) there was still hope for the next batsmen to come in and give Mushfique some support. I know that Rafique is a crowd favorite with his cavalier batting style, but the way he got out simply smacked of irresponsibility and negligence. Is it impossible for our last four batsmen to average around ten-twelve runs per innings?
Verdict: No it’s not and although there are some efforts underway to impart some technique to the lower order, it’s the mental attitude that I’m more worried about. Whatmore must impart some sense of responsibility into these guys.
Overall, a very satisfying test match. What worries me most, however, is that most of the above mistakes are not just one-off mistakes but something that has been recurring for quite some time now. Hopefully wiser heads than mine have already looked into them.