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     Volume 6 Issue 30 | August 3, 2007 |

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Batting Woes

Nader Rahman

Does it make a difference if they bat with one hand or two?

Before the Bangladesh team is hung drawn and quartered for their performances in Sri Lanka one should match the strengths and the weaknesses of the teams objectively. Bangladesh went into the series suffering the effects of their most hectic schedule to date, there were one dayers galore leading up to the World Cup and then came the show piece even itself. An outstanding World Cup for the Tigers extended into late April. That was followed almost immediately by a home series against India which was played under the most extreme conditions, searing heat and suffocating humidity. A demoralising home defeat was soon followed by a tour to Sri Lanka, with the team in relative disarray and with a new inexperienced captain, the emerald isle was not the best place to be touring after six months of rigorous non-stop cricket.

Sri Lanka on the other hand had come off a highly successful World Cup campaign where they were only beaten to the trophy by the unbelievable Australians. After the cup they played a few ODI's against Pakistan with a weakened team and duly lost what was a rather unimportant series. But the seeds of Sri Lankan greatness were planted long before the World Cup as they put together an incredible team in both forms of the game coupled with the individual brilliance of Murali, Sangakkara, Malinga and last but not least their captain fantastic Jayawardene. Sri Lanka were a tight well oiled unit, full of confidence playing at home against a weak, demoralised and out of form team. It was never going to be much of a contest, and it wasn't.

The dejected Tigers return home.

Bangladesh picked the best team they had, aside from the inclusion of Mehrab Hossain Jnr and Abdur Razzak for Enamul Haque junior there were no real surprises in the test team. Test matches have always brought more questions than answers for Bangladesh, just before their tour to Sri Lanka the tests against a powerful yet shaky Indian side were another example of their two sided nature to the game of cricket. While in the one dayers they were competitive, they were woefully out of their depth in the tests. Only rain and some fine performances from Mashrafee Mortaza saved them from a complete thrashing.

While in the longer version of the game their bowling has run hot and cold, the batting has persistently been below par. That is not to say that they have not had a few stand out performances, but standout performances from one batsman cannot and do not win test matches. There is an old and often used adage that one can't score without someone else occupying the crease at the other end and for much of Bangladesh's existence as a test side that really has been the case. Every now and then one batsman will put his hand up and knuckle down for a long hard innings, but all too frequently he has been let down, as batsmen at the other end fall like shooting stars, fast and erratic. Fifty tests and more than seven years after attaining test status the basics of test match batting have not been sorted out yet. It would be harsh to say Bangladeshi batsmen are not up to test standards, but the truth of the matter is that they are not. They are immature in their shot selection and against genuine fast bowling and half decent spin bowling more often than not they seem out of their league.

The series against Sri Lanka only served to prove that point further, on the very first morning of the first test Bangladesh were bundled out for a paltry 89. It was an innings short of genuine class, against a formidable attack the batsmen poked and prodded their way at the new ball. Then came Murali who cleaned up the tail. This story was to be repeated twice more as the first innings blues got the better of Bangladesh throughout the tour even in the second ODI when they batted first. The second test was even more of a joke as Bangladesh were taken to pieces and were saved the ignominy of being bowled out before lunch. They made 62 of the most pathetic runs and that set the tone for their second innings defeat in a row. Little did they know it would be the second of three as Sri Lanka would steamroll them again in the final test.

The batting in the test matches was shambolic to say the least and it did the team no favours. Voices of discontent were are seemingly never far from a test series involving Bangladesh. They did not look the part of a test team and batted like blindfolded children trying to hit a piñata. The basics of test match batting were tossed out the window as it seems they were taught to poke rather than leave and slash rather drive. Credit must be given to the Sri Lankan bowling but while Murali may have been quite good on his day, the pitches for the most part were flat and dead. The one big partnership in the series should be a lesson to the rest of the team how to build an innings. For more than 50 overs Mushfiqur Rahim and Mohammad Ashraful blunted everything that came their way. Loose balls were dispatched and the rest defended with ease, they batted with the mindset to preserve their wickets and eventually that was what made them so successful. The lesson was not learned or repeated for the third and final test.

The one dayers could have been the silver lining to an otherwise disastrous tour, but that was not to be. No points for guessing what side of the game let Bangladesh down. After bowling well to restrict Sri Lanka to a modest 234, Bangladesh had a real look in when they replied and at one stage were 45 for no loss in the 12th over. In a collapse of monumental proportions, that soon became 56 for six, as hopes of an away victory against a top team faded. They all fell to false shots and just like they did in the tests, seemingly the lure of quick runs is worth ones wicket. This is where they should stand up and take notice of Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis, unbeatable in the test arena they are both nearing the 10,000 run mark in one dayers. Their stodginess is well documented in both forms of the game yet they are still match winners and world beaters, the reason being they put a price on their wicket. A fact which obviously tells one how inexpensive Bangladeshi wickets are.

The second and third one dayers were repeat episodes of a horrible tour with the bat. Victory seemed imminent when they restricted the home side to under 200 in the third ODI but then again their batting woes acted up again for the final time on the tour. They ended up 39 runs short and hopefully learned something in the process. For Bangladesh to stand any chance of cricketing credibility they should transform potential into application. In their tour to Sri Lanka their batting was in shambles, and if they really are to compete with the best in the world they must lose their sophomoric attitude towards batting and take it far more seriously. Someone once said an error can only be called a mistake when it is not corrected. Let's hope our batting errors are corrected before they become mistakes.



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