Test Cricket Under The Microscope
My thoughts and ideas for the upcoming test series:
11 years onto test cricket and yet Bangladesh fans find themselves once again worrying about losing the test status. It is difficult to decide whether ICC would be too harsh to take away this honour from Bangladesh at this stage or if Bangladesh Cricket Team fully deserves this humiliation. Both sides have enough faults to go either way. While Bangladesh Cricket did not show sufficient improvement to make their position stronger, ICC did not provide enough opportunities to improve either. The FTPs schedules were very thin for Bangladesh. There were years where Bangladesh saw 1-2 series where other teams saw significantly more. Bangladesh had some long intervals between test matches which affected more negatively than it did positively. Because, what happens when a team has extended breaks is by the time they play another match, they tend to forget the learning experience from previous match. This has been evident in the recent test match against Zimbabwe. Even though Zimbabwe did not play any international test cricket for 6 years, they were preparing for this format ever since. For Bangladesh, they forgot and totally ignored test cricket since the English tour on summer 2010. BCB is equally to blame here. With a home world cup approaching they sifted every attention towards the single format knowing that the best chance Bangladesh will have is to make it to their quarter finals, a feat which would not hide away their deficiencies in test cricket. To add insult to injury, Bangladesh finished the world cup on a very poor performance. Now the attention shifts to West Indies. With 58/10 to remember, Bangladesh has a lot to do before the West Indians arrive for a full tour at the end of September.
First things first, Bangladesh needs to get the 15 squad right. From a test perspective, the team needs to pull off a “French Revolution” and from an ODI perspective, its fine for most part. But as our test status stands at the edge of cliff, it requires more attention.
For winning test match, the simplest mantra is to take 20 wickets. And unless it’s being played at some mine field like Chittagong, it requires a great deal of effort from the seamers. Even though our seamers have improved constantly in ODI cricket, they did not improve as much in test. It’s not that they lack pace or swing or the ability to hit bouncers, it’s just they are very inconsistent at it. Consistency is something that can be improved and if the players work hard at it, they can improve it very fast. True, the seam attack lacked the experienced Shahadat Hossain or Mashrafe Mortaza, but that does not mean, the rest will perform the way they did against Zimbabwe. The presence of Shahadat or Mashrafe wouldn’t make the other pacers stop bowling half volleys or short pitched deliveries way outside off stump constantly. The coaching staff needs to fix this very fast if they want to stand any chance on winning a test match. A Bowling coach is due as soon as possible. Even if BCB finds a coach a week before the series starts, it will only benefit the bowlers.
For Bangladesh surface, spinners always play a vital role in bowling attack. Armed with a world class spinner Shakib Al Hasan, all he needs is another spinner to perform well alongside. So far Razzaq has done that for ODI matches but in test, so far he is completely off track. It’s shocking how the selectors don’t realize the simplest fact that Razzaq is not the solution for test cricket. In a country like Bangladesh, finding a specialist spinner is probably the easiest. So it does not make sense to try out the same guy over and over again with zero success rate. It’s high time to give players like Elias Sunny, Shohag Gazi, Enamul Haque Jnr, Shaker Ahmed some chance to shine.
The batting attack has always been a problem and it will remain so for a long time. Very few batsmen in Bangladesh have the temperament, skill together under one body. For the batting attack right now, only one change can be made without thinking anything out of the box. That change is called “Imrul Kayes!” As good as he might be in ODI last year; he has a long way to where test cricket is concerned. An average of 17 is nothing short of a disgrace for an international player in test cricket. It’s even worse if this average represents an opener. So right away, drop him from the test side. The side already has openers like Junaid Siddique and Shahriar Nafees who has to play at no. 3 to accommodate Kayes. Give them a chance. If both fail, than players like Jahirul Islam, Nazimuddin gets a chance on the following tour. However, both Tamim- Nafees and Tamim-Junaid chemistry look more promising than the current. Slot no. 3 is also a problem however this could be awarded to Mohammed Ashraful for now for his good comeback in test cricket against Zimbabwe. Rest should be relatively easy. Riyad, Shuvagoto, Shakib, Mushfiq can fill up the rest of batting order and the last 4 slots should go to the bowlers and bowling allrounders. 7 Batsmen should be able to guarantee 250+ which is a start and if the rest 4 bowlers can add another 20-30, a total of 270-280 is possible. If a team puts up a score of 550+ batting 7-8 sessions total, that team has much less chance of losing that match. But they have to bat at least 7-8 sessions at any case.
Shakib Al Hasan might be our best player and probably the best captain for ODI, but in test cricket he falls short where captaincy is concerned. Last test has enough evidence to suggest that he does not have the right mindset for a test captain. Which is fine because he is excellent as an ODI captain and will remain so in years to come. However, if he wants to stay as an test captain, he will have to give some time thinking about what he did. His feilding set ups were generally defensive from a test perspective. Some might argue that his set ups were "tight" but that does not mean they were "aggressive". He needs to be more aggressive and not worry about conceding runs when a bowler is showing some intent. His Bowling changes were also somewhat awkward. Sometimes he would bring in spinners when seamers ought to be there and on the other hand, there were times where bringing himself to bowl would have been smarter where he did not. True that he does not have enough "quality" options but most of them time, he was unable to use the bowlers to their full potential. A change is captaincy on this format might be something to think about after the West Indies series.
However, right now with one month to go, a huge change wouldn’t be the solution. Just a few minor changes can improve the game. If BCB were smart, they would take all measures to ensure that Bangladesh gets all the home advantage they need. For example, even though BCB would never do it, playing both test matches in Chittagong could have been a smart move. West Indies were never good against spin and a slow wicket like Chittagong, their seamers would be virtually useless. On the other hand, Bangladeshi spinners would enjoy the “mine field” set up thoroughly. If not then BCB should ensure that Shere Bangla pitch gives as much advantage to the spinners as possible. Even then it would be difficult to pull off a satisfactory series against West Indies who have performed reasonable well against teams like India and Pakistan.
In the end, Bangladesh MUST improve on test cricket and they MUST do it this series. If what it takes is to forget ODI cricket completely, then be it!
My desired 15 for Test Series,
Shakib Al Hasan
Nasir Hossain (Note: Even though Nasir is an allrounder, he will be more effective against left handers)
Enamul Haque Jnr/ Suhrawardi Shuvo/ Shohag Gazi (One of them)
Alok Kapali/ Naeem Islam
By Rinat Haque
Last edited by rinathq; August 24, 2011 at 11:56 AM.