Bangladesh cricket team has just finished about a month-long tour of India. Tigers started the tour with three T-20 matches and finished with two Test matches. Therefore, probably it is high time to analyze the performance of the Tigers to identify the potentials and promises they have shown as well as the grey areas they should further stress on to improve their records.
The overall situation of Bangladesh cricket has undergone a tumultuous situation these very recent days. The tour had been preceded by earth-shattering incidents in the country’s cricket such as the players’ strike. The former captain in both T20 and Test matches and arguably the best performer of the side, Shakib Al Hasan, was very recently banned by the ICC for two years, with one year suspended, just on the eve of the tour for not reporting corrupt approaches by a bookmaker. Another very experienced opening batsman, Tamim Iqbal, opted to pull himself out of the tour to accompany his pregnant wife. So everybody in the cricket world was keen to observe how Tigers would perform abroad, especially against India, a giant opponent in cricket these days. The focus also shifted to environmental factors like the Delhi smog after the Tigers reached India.
While Tigers went to field on the ground of the smog-choked Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi for their first encounter in a T20 in this tour, perhaps the painful memory of losing to India in the 2016 World T20 when Bangladesh needed just two runs from three balls was still very fresh to everybody’s mind. On a sluggish wicket, India had rallied to post an above-par 148 for six despite a fine bowling performance by Bangladesh. The batsmen at the crease when Bangladesh eclipsed India’s score were none other than Mushfiqur Rahim and skipper Mahmudullah Riyad. Coincidentally this duo had fluffed the finish three and a half years ago in Bengaluru. But this time, the Cricket God had a different script in his mind.
In the nick of time, Mushfiqur realized four consecutive boundaries to end the 19th over, leaving Bangladesh to score just four off the last over from Indian debutant Shivam Dube. A scampered two and a wide leveled the margin with four balls to go, and Mahmudullah hit a huge six over long on to deliver Bangladesh’s first ever T20I win over India in nine attempts.
Earlier, opener Mohammad Naim impressed on his debut with a 28-ball 26 and, more importantly, struck up a 46-run partnership with Soumya Sarkar. The Tigers overcame the absence of Shakib manfully as leg-spinner Aminul Islam and part-time off-spinner Afif Hossain impressed with their accuracy and turn after pacer Shafiul Islam removed danger man Rohit Sharma in the very first over.
In the second T20I at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot, Bangladesh went to bat first but failed to capitalize on a promising start, having reached 97 for two in 12 overs and seemingly on course for a 170-plus score that would have been par on a good batting surface. India leg-spinner Chahal then put the skids on the scoring by getting Mushfiqur Rahim, the star of the first T20I, caught at deep midwicket and Soumya Sarkar stumped for a 20-ball 30 in the 13th over. Naim continued his good initiation into international cricket, top-scoring with 36, but was caught at deep midwicket off Washington Sundar trying to force the pace.
In reply, Indian skipper Rohit Sharma - playing his 100th T20I - demonstrated an awe-inspiring display of power hitting as the hosts galloped to an emphatic eight-wicket win over the visitors. In the chase of a sub-par 153 for six from Bangladesh in perfect batting conditions, Sharma put the bowlers to the sword with a demolition work. It ended only in the 13th over as he was caught off leg-spinner Aminul Islam for 85 off 43 balls. But by then, six sixes and as many fours from his bat had already safeguarded India to the virtually invincible position of 125 for two in 12.2 overs. KL Rahul (8 off 11) and Shreyas Iyer (24 off 13) then cruised India home safely with 4.2 overs to spare.
Tigers showed a positive mindset ahead of the series-deciding third and final T20I in Nagpur. Shafiul made a good start by removing India openers Sharma and Dhawan early. Despite a great start with the ball, the game started to slide away following a few errors. The Tigers managed to restrict India to 174 for five - a challenging total that looked difficult to assail from the onset. But Bangladesh lost two early wickets, making the difficult task almost impossible. The game continued in a seesaw manner, with the balance of power tipping from one side to the other in almost every moment. Resistance came from youngster Naim, playing in only his third T20I match, as the left-hander took the onslaught to the India bowlers and scored a magnificent 81 off mere 48 deliveries. However, the Tigers failed to adjust to the pressure of the match situations, much like it has happened in recent days. They ultimately fumbled, losing their last eight wickets for 34 runs and the hosts managed a 30-run victory. Eventually they lost the opportunity what would, otherwise, have been a historic first-ever T20I series win against India.
T20Is have never been a strong suit for Bangladesh, but with young emerging players now making considerable impact, the India series could be reckoned as a positive stepping stone to prepare for the upcoming T20 World Cup in 2020.
The Tigers planned to make a quick turnaround to face the mighty Indians in a two-match Test series. Bangladesh elected to bat in the first Test against India at the Holkar Stadium in Indore. A cool breeze blowing across the ground in the morning comforted the players in otherwise hot and sunny conditions. There was, however, no respite from the heat generated by a rampant Indian pace trio, namely Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav for the Bangladesh batsmen. After the Indian pace show, it seemed that other than technical errors with the bat, the Tigers had also erred in picking just two pacers. Bangladesh were handed a thumping innings and 130-run defeat by a strong India outfit. The difference in experience and ability between the two sides was obvious during the different sessions of the entire match.
The first day-night Test in the Indian subcontinent was ushered in with splendor at the archetypal Eden Gardens in Kolkata while Bangladesh and India faced off in the second and final Test match. Both teams were playing their first match with the pink ball, which is used for day-night Tests, as opposed to the traditional red ball used for the regular day matches. Bangladesh wilted under the India pace attack, eventually losing the second Test by an innings and 46 runs.
Tigers have the capacity to fight back as they are playing international cricket for quite some time. But they should play more Tests to gain more and more experience in this format of cricket. If they do not play Tests at regular intervals, they won’t understand how to analyze and cope up with the match situations and figure out how to play under pressure. BCB should focus on improving the structure of longer version domestic cricket and managing a frequent schedule of Test matches with other countries after deliberations with ICC.
The author is a freelance sports journalist. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org