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One of the main points of interests surrounding the first ODI between Bangladesh and the West Indies were the new ODI rules -- particularly the one that limits the number of fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle at any time to four instead of five -- and how detrimental their effect would be on Bangladesh.
At the Sheikh Abu Naser Stadium in Khulna yesterday however, it was proven that cricket is a game where few things can be predicted, and things may not always be as they seem. More than anything else, it proved that cricket is a game that rewards skilful execution.
It was expected that spinners will suffer because of the rule, but quite the opposite happened on the field. After Chris Gayle's dismissal in the twelfth over, well caught by Tamim Iqbal off Shohag Gazi, the ensuing dismantlement of the much-feared West Indian power-hitters in the middle order showed that the new rule is not as straightforward as it seemed at first. Speaking to The Daily Star Sport after the match Bangladesh interim coach Shane Jurgensen, whose specialty lies as a bowling coach, discussed the intricacies of the new rule.
“With the new fielding restrictions, it becomes a challenging situation for the bowlers but at the same time it can create wicket-taking opportunities,” said Jurgensen. “You've seen examples in the past with the batting Powerplay. The extra pressure in the circle creates opportunities where the batter will look to hit over the top. It's an interesting one. It probably limits manipulating the field for the captain who will have to sometimes bring fielders in to send other fielders out.
“It's still a challenge because when you have the power of guys like (Chris) Gayle and (Kieron) Pollard and the quality of cricket bats these days (laughs), you don't have to hit it too hard for it to reach the fence,” he added.
Five fielders inside the fence, while increasing boundary opportunities also means that there will not be as many easy singles on offer for new batsmen to settle in, which in turn gives skilful bowlers the chance to build pressure. Jurgensen feels that it will force bowlers to bowl fewer bad balls. Bangladesh's bowling yesterday supports that theory.
“It puts more onus on bowlers to bowl good areas,” the coach explained. “You no longer have five fielders and you cannot just bowl the last ball of the over, and hope that it gets hit to deep mid off and get out of the over easily, you still have to bowl a good ball.”
Following Gayle's departure, 14 deliveries produced only two runs at a stage when everyone was expecting West Indies to dominate. Marlon Samuels, the major threat apart from Gayle, reached out to play the cover drive to a Gazi delivery in an attempt to find the vacant cover boundary but succeeded only in edging to Mahmudullah Riyad at slip.
In the 25 non-Powerplay overs between overs 10 and 35, West Indies lost eight wickets for 92 runs, decisively swinging the match in Bangladesh's favour, setting up their seven-wicket win.
“I think we bowled well, we adapted to what we needed to do quickly with the ball. We started well with the ball and we started well with the bat,” Jurgensen said about the victory. “That laid the foundation for the guys to express themselves. In terms of the rest of the series we just have to make sure we can use this momentum. This is a big plus for the team -- very positive for the boys and will give them a lot of confidence.”
Was the performance unexpected?
“No, not for me. Because I believe we have a very talented cricket team, and I believe in them. In terms of the series all I can say is we will tackle this one game at a time. Tomorrow, we'll have a light day and we get ready for the next game,” Jurgensen said.
On a day that Bangla-desh, especially the spinners, were expected to suffer the game showed that disciplined execution will still get the job done. Regardless of the newness of the rules, the basic tenets remain constant -- good bowling reaps rewards and restless, overambitious batting like West Indies' will be punished.