Sports, Cricket

Bangladesh pay the price for veering away from trusted batting approach


Published : 12 Apr 2022 08:40 PM | Updated : 12 Apr 2022 08:40 PM

Bangladesh’s defeat to South Africa in the just-concluded two-match Test series has once again raised the inevitable question - is the team still learning the trade of the longer format despite getting Test status in 2000?

Mominul Haque’s team were riding high on confidence following their maiden Test win over New Zealand in Mount Maunganui and their maiden ODI series win over South Africa, but the hosts brought them down to earth in the Test series despite losing first-team regulars to the IPL.

By all means, Bangladesh played well in the opening Test for nearly four days before the hosts stormed back through their spin duo of Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer to disrupt the visitors' progress. It seemed Maharaj and Harmer had a lasting effect in the minds of the visitors' batting unit which they never got over as evidenced by another rout in the second innings at Port Elizabeth.

The laborious century of Mahmudul Hasan or the 20 wickets taken by their bowlers was quickly forgotten as Bangladesh’s batting unit crumbled like pack of cards in the second innings at Durban. Mominul will certainly be disappointed for not paying heed to coach Russell Domingo's advice about batting first in Durban, but it is understood that the team wanted to see how the pitch behaves before padding up to bat.

Did they bat with purpose in the second innings of the opening Test or for that matter even in the second Test is something that needs to be answered.

There was significant hue and cry about Bangladesh - a team that has grown up playing spin - losing all their wickets in the second innings to Maharaj and Harmer, but history would suggest that sub-continent teams can tend to struggle against bowlers imparting overspin, which is not common back home. Even England's Moeen Ali took India for a ride in 2018 with his over spin.

Curiously, their batting approach in the second Test suggested that they had veered away from their methods that helped them taste success in Mount Maunganui.

“We always wanted to take the game deep and that is why we were successful in New Zealand,” Bangladesh team director Khaled Mahmud had said after their historic win in New Zealand. However, it hardly looked like tourists were following the same footsteps against South Africa in Port Elizabeth and as a result paid the price for it.

The inclusion of Tamim Iqbal surely bolstered the strength of the squad and he proved his worth by making a free-flowing 47 in the first innings but the dynamic of the team changed with it. Tamim, known for his aggressive brand of batting, can be excellent when on song but whether it serves the purpose of the team is something to ponder, considering he will surely get the runs but not dig deep given there is always a chance of getting out when you are going for runs.

That Tamim, and two other left-handers Najmul Hossain and Mominul Haque, got out LBW to a deliveries angled into the stumps from around the wicket from Wiaan Mulder also suggested they had some technical problem. Bangladesh batting coach Jamie Siddons backed the experienced opener for his aggressive brand of cricket stating that it was a mental mistake to not make the subtle switches. Liton Das, who did not do well with the bat, also has a similar aggressive instinct but has been willing to grind it out for the sake of the team.

Mushfiqur Rahim, despite making a fifty in the first innings of the second Test, received flak for his ill-timed reverse sweep. He did, however, get the backing of skipper Mominul Haque after the game to back his shot-making instincts, and is unlikely to shelve his adventurism just yet.

Skipper Mominul might be made the scapegoat after the South Africa series but whether that solves the problem is not clear. Unless the batsmen, seniors in particular, take more responsibility Bangladesh will remain a work in progress on the Test arena and events like those at Mount Maunganui would be exceptions than the norm.