Small things cost Bangladesh on big day

CRICKET-IND-BAN
Mehedi Hasan’s fumble reprieved M Vijay when he was batting on 35 © AFP

Like their maiden Tests at home and in places like England, Australia and South Africa, this one in Hyderabad was a big deal. Bangladesh’s first Test in India had been built up as a historic moment. Courtney Walsh, their bowling coach, had spoken about wanting the pace bowlers to enjoy the occasion while Chandika Hathurusingha, their head coach, had asked all his players to think about winning.

But as Bangladesh learned so harshly in New Zealand, Test cricket is mostly about the small moments – the basics. Here too, getting the simple things wrong cost them throughout the day. An unnecessary high throw, a poor collection at the stumps, the wicketkeeper not diving, and an ill-thought-out review made Bangladesh’s first day of Test cricket in India far more difficult than it could have been.

The missing dive

The first chance came in the 10th over when Cheteshwar Pujara edged Kamrul Islam Rabbi‘s subtle outswinger. The ball fell short of Soumya Sarkar at first slip, with Mushfiqur Rahim a curious onlooker standing next to where the ball bounced, well in front of Soumya who was moving to his left when the edge was coming his way. These catches are gulped down by wicketkeepers, but Mushfiqur didn’t even move in time for it.

This has been a recurring issue in Bangladesh’s matches in the past few months. In New Zealand, some twenty chances went down, some of them in the slips. Tamim Iqbal said at the end of the tour that Bangladesh, at home, can create plenty of chances even during a session when things aren’t going in their favour. But away from home, chances are few and far between, and the suffering for bowlers greater when they go down.

On this occasion, the ball fell short of first slip, and Mushfiqur not going for the catch was an indication of the confusion that has beset Bangladesh’s fielding of late. His wicketkeeping has been in the spotlight since 2015 with many within Bangladesh’s team management and the cricket board questioning whether he should have all three roles – Test captain, a dependable middle-order batsman and wicketkeeper.

When a chance like this goes down, it is natural for these questions to grow more strident. It is true that the likes of Nurul Hasan and Liton Das haven’t cemented their place in the limited opportunities they have been provided, but Mushfiqur’s reluctance to give up the gloves remains a bone of contention.

The two that got away

In Mehedi Hasan Miraz‘s second over, he got both Pujara and Vijay to push at, and edge, deliveries that drifted away from them. The fact that he found drift so early in the day was a surprise, perhaps also to the batsmen. Shakib Al Hasan, at slip, saw the first one streak away to his right, wide of his reach, but was late to dive for the second one, which was closer to him.

Slip catching has been a major problem that Bangladesh’s fielding coach Richard Halsall has tried hard to address. But he is restricted by the ins and outs of the team. Soumya Sarkar and Imrul Kayes usually field in the slips, but Soumya isn’t a regular member of the Test line-up while Imrul is out injured. Mehedi has also been tried in the slips but he dropped a couple of chances in New Zealand. Shakib has only fielder sporadically in the slips for quite some time.

It’s imperative Bangladesh find, and stick with, specialists to field in the slips, because with every drop, especially when the beneficiary goes on to make a big score, they will keep suffering.

The fumble

When Vijay was on 35, he worked Mehedi towards square leg and stood watching the ball even as Pujara rushed out from the non-striker’s end and drew level with him. By that time Kamrul had dived and gathered the ball. Vijay ran desperately to the bowler’s end, almost resigned he would be run out. But with the batsman still yards short of the crease, Mehedi fumbled Kamrul’s throw. The chance was gone.

Kamrul’s throw slightly awkward for Mehedi to gather, but it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t thrown hard and straight at him, and he had to do a little more work than he would have liked to complete the run-out, but his mistake was elementary, a simple failure to gather the ball. Vijay and Pujara had made a big error in judgment, but the fielder-bowler howler took the heat away from them.

Mehedi’s fielding woes have been surprising given how sprightly he had been at the Under-19 level. His batting too hasn’t come up to the level that was expected; he was one of the batting mainstays in the Bangladesh Under-19 team he led in the 2014 and 2016 World Cups. Maybe he has been out of luck, but the major issue here is putting the dots together.

Two young players muffed up a run-out opportunity, and it eventually cost Bangladesh 83 runs. Again, something as basic as a throw from square leg and collection by the bowler went wrong. Basics.

The review

Bangladesh were finding it hard to get past Virat Kohli’s bat and when he defended Taijul Islam in the 62nd over, the fielders grew excited and appealed for lbw. Someone convinced Mushfiqur to review the on-field not-out decision. The first replay on the big screen became embarrassing for Bangladesh: there was no pad involved, and the ball had hit the middle of Kohli’s bat.

Perhaps Bangladesh had thought there was a chance it may have been pad onto bat, given how close to his body Kohli played the ball. Given this was the 62nd over, and that the reviews would be reset after the 80th, Mushfiqur may have decided to take a chance. But again, it could have been avoided.

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