Bangladesh face familiar challenge against Sri LankaTime is running out for Bangladesh especially in Test cricket. With every Test series defeat, the media whispers are getting louder and louder and piling up further pressure on the underperforming Tigers. Bangladesh did not help their cause either by letting the opposition off the hook whenever they had achieved winnable positions and ultimately notching up another mark on the Test defeat column. The recent stance by the ECB to not invite Bangladesh after 2010 will definitely bring Bangladesh’s Test performance against Sri Lanka under the microscope of other cricket administrators who might want to follow the suit.
Bangladesh showed some signs of encouragement in recent home Tests and fought neck and neck against South Africa and New Zealand. They even took first innings leads against both oppositions. This in of itself is a rarity considering Bangladesh’s poor record in Test cricket. However, there is a huge difference in winning a couple of sessions of a Test match to winning the match itself.
Bangladesh can only blame themselves for this current mess as they have apparently failed to learn the basics of tenets Test cricket even after 8 years of introduction to the top league. Bangladesh must learn to play cricket within their limitations. They must buckle down and put a high price on their wickets to compete at the top. Audacious stroke play, over-ambitious approach and reckless cricket won’t take them anywhere in the near future other than bring even more humiliations for them and their 150 million passionate cricket followers.
Bangladesh’s lack of self-belief and leadership, both on and off the field, are two main reasons why a team with immense potential is consistently failing to compete at the top level. Inconsistent Mohammad Ashraful is failing to lead with example and Bangladesh needs someone with a more serene and assured approach to inspire a youthful side. It is time Bangladesh cricket administrators understand the reality and take appropriate actions. His undeniable talents cannot hide his continuous run of poor shows and inexplicable idiocy at crucial moments of play. Let him earn his place in the team and let him fight to retaining it. It has been seen that the notion of honor and responsibility associated with the captaincy has not changed Ashraful; perhaps only the fear for survival might affect a change. His casual approach towards cricket has been a detrimental influence on a youthful Bangladesh side and whatever happens in the Sri Lanka series; BCB must not get fooled by his antics and must put an end to his captaincy for his own sake.
Sri Lanka is not an unfamiliar opposition for Bangladesh. This will be their second visit to Bangladesh. On the first occasion in 2006, Bangladesh had their moments in both Test matches and won one of the three ODIs. This time a lot more is expected from the hosts after three years of international experience. Sri Lanka is coming after an un-satisfactory series win over Zimbabwe and haven’t had any Test cricket for the last five months. Bangladesh must learn to capitalize on these potential weaknesses and put pressure on them from the first morning of the first Test match.
Batting will again hold the key for Bangladesh and playing Muralitharan will be the main challenge for the top order batsmen. Every top team in international cricket has one or two special bowlers and negotiating them well is often the deciding factor between a win and a loss. Bangladesh has played 10 Test matches against Muralitharan and they should learn by now the way to counter him. If they can exorcise the Murali ghost, they should be able to cope with the rest of Sri Lankan bowling line up that is missing the likes of Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga.
Bangladesh has its own problems in bowling. In 2008, the pace bowling duo Mashrafe Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain looked as threatening as a paper Tiger and as effective as a placebo. Someone from the coaching staff should tell Shahadat Hossain that he must stop pretending to be a fearsome fast bowler and his barrage of short pitched deliveries are not any more effective than his grunts in distracting opposition batsmen. The grunt might cause some annoyance, but his gentle medium half-trackers cost valuable runs for Bangladesh. A less adventurous and level headed approach won’t do any harm to the prospect of Bangladesh in the Test series. Recently, Shakib Al Hasan has stepped up to fill the void left by Mohammad Rafique and established himself as the premier spinner of Bangladesh. ICC suspension on Abdur Razzak has opened the door for Enamul Haque Jnr. and if he can grab the opportunity with some performances, Bangladesh might be able to restrict the out of form Sri Lankan line up within manageable scores.
Bangladesh’s coach Jamie Siddons has pledged a long term Tigers uprising at the expense of short term “flash in the pan” successes. Despite the recent ICL exodus, he managed to retain his core group of players. Now, it is high time for Bangladesh to transform his pledge into solid performances on the field. No more excuses please! Bangladesh desperately needs a win under its belt to justify its inclusion in to the elite league. This two match Test series against Sri Lanka is the first available opportunity for the Tigers to achieve the feat.