When you are taking a boat out into the rough seas without plugging its holes, your voyage will end in a disaster. Well, Bangladesh’s chances in the Indore Test met with a similar sort of fate – being rolled over by the mighty Indians within two-and-a-half days and without any resistance whatsoever.
It was not that coming into the series, Bangladesh – the No. 9 ranked Test team in the world which had lost to sides like Afghanistan and Zimbabwe in the recent past - was expected to perform a miracle. But at least, they were expected to fight, considering the familiarities with the conditions. Of course absence of two senior pros - Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal was a huge setback. But that cannot be an excuse for not putting their best foot forward.
Firstly, the preparation for this important tour was hampered due to the players’ strike and the saga surrounding Shakib’s fishy off-the-field affairs. Then when the tour started, the T20Is were played first and important players like Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah and others invested a lot of energy in those limited-overs fixtures.
Hence, coming to Indore for the first Test, some of their key players did not have much red-ball practice. Though some members of the squad, like skipper Mominul Haque did play a few First Class matches before travelling to India but, clearly, facing those spin-dominated attacks on dead pitches back home is not an ideal comparison to when you are supposed to encounter some of the best fast bowlers in the world. The same bowlers who in their last series intimidated the South African batters with pace as well as accuracy and left ‘mental scars’.
Perhaps, the Bangladesh team management did not even do their basic homework. It is quite likely that their new head coach Russell Domingo may have stereotyped the Indian pitches from his past experience in this country as the Proteas coach back in 2015-16 and did not take the pace threat seriously.
Bangladesh probably expected a trial by spin.
Perhaps, that is why Neil Mckenzie, the batting coach, was seen spending a lot time with the batters at the nets prior to the Test trying to perfect their sweeps and reverse-sweeps. A reflection of this thought process was also evident in a Mohammed Mithun press conference couple of days prior to the game. In that, the youngster seemed more concerned on facing the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja than the faster bowlers.
But Mithun and his team learnt their lessons in a harsh way. Due to the red soil, the pitch offered a little bit of extra bounce and lateral movement for the faster bowlers throughout the game and the Indian pace trio of Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma took 14 of the 20 Bangladeshi wickets.
The other tactical blunder which cost Bangladesh severely was the decision of not playing a third pacer on that pitch.
One can understand the fact that Mominul's inexperience of leading the Test side played a role in continuing of traditional spin heavy team. But there is a fairly experienced think-tank in the dressing room (consisting of Domingo, Mckenzie and Daniel Vettori) to guide the new captain. They could have advocated the inclusion of an extra seamer – either Mustafizur Rahman or Al-Amin Hossain.
Instead, the Tigers went ahead with two pacers and two spinner option. Abu Jayed and Ebadot Hossain were the only ones in the visitors’ XI who could bowl seam-up on that spicy pitch. As a result, despite getting the priced scalps of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli cheaply, Bangladesh failed to tame the Indian batsmen once the spinners were in action. Only medium pacer Jayed was the stand out performer with 4 for 108.
Furthermore, on part of Mominul, the field placements he provided to the spinners – Mehidy Hasan and Taijul Islam – for the major part of the Indian innings were mostly on the defensive side. At one point in the morning session on Day 2, when India were under a little bit of pressure following the loss of Kohli, off-spinner Mehidy was bowling with long-on, deep mid-wicket and deep point, allowing both Mayank Agarwal and Ajinkya Rahane easy opportunities to rotate the strike and release the pressure.
At the other end from which left-armer Taijul was operating, there was no close-in fielder in-front of the stumps. The wicket offered fair bit of bounce for the spinners and at that juncture at least a short-leg was the need of the hour to keep the under-pressure batters on their toes.
Unfortunately, Mominul failed to gauge the significance of that key moment and let it slip away. The Rahane-Mayank stand ultimately added 190 runs for the fourth wicket as India eventually batted Bangladesh out of the Test match by getting a lead of 343 runs. And, the missed opportunities on the field did not help their cause either.
Finally, before heading to Kolkata for the historic pink-ball Day-Night Test, Bangladesh think-tank needs to reconsider Mushfiqur’s batting position. He is the best batsman in this team and with him not doing the wicket-keeping duties anymore in the longer version; the former skipper has to take the all-important No. 4 position. Pushing Mushfiqur down in the batting line-up is a negative call and it can backfire like we saw in the second innings in Indore. A set Mushfiqur got out trying to play a lofted shot, which he would have never done if there wasn’t a tail-ender at the other end.
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