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Analyse this: Coach McInnes on why our batsmen make regular spectacularly short appearances at the crease (2013)
Match Report: OD1 - BD A in UAE (2005)
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Why do Bangladesh batsmen make regular spectacular short appearances at the crease, but rarely bat long enough to play match winning innings? Numerous coaches the world over have sought to find answers to this question. Manager and Head Coach of the Bangladesh Cricket Academy, Richard McInnes responded to a fan query on our forum and we are pleased to publish in its entirety his analysis of the mores and ethos of the country and its cultural influences on our cricket.

Analyse this: Coach McInnes on why our batsmen make regular spectacularly short appearances at the crease

Published: 3rd September, 2013

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Coach Richard Mcinnes

 ‎Manager / Head Coach,
National Cricket Academy
Richard McInnes

Why do Bangladesh batsmen make regular spectacular short appearances at the crease, but rarely bat long  enough to play match winning innings? I hope the below sheds a little more light on our batting issues. Not unsolvable, but no quick solution either. Numerous coaches the world over have sought to find answers to this question. Why does a batsman when he appears very comfortable, plays a random loose shot and loses his wicket? There is no single answer of course and there may be any number of factors that come into play. Firstly let us look at some factors that apply the world over:

Decision Making

The best batsmen make more correct decisions about line, length and shot selection than other batsmen, hence they score more runs more consistently. So what contributes to becoming a better decision maker?

  • Ability to focus on the ball and only the next ball: Many players spend too much time worrying about the past and the future and are unable to focus all their concentration on the watching the ball and making a good decision based on what they see. Specifically to Bangladesh batsmen, some factors that influence them in this regard are the volumes of result based pressure they are reminded of constantly, which inhibits their ability to focus on the next ball, the environment in which they have grown up in, which is all about short cuts and half measures.
  • Exposure: By exposure, firstly, I mean being exposed to many different experiences as part of their development. Facing all different types of bowlers in all different types of conditions, which builds their knowledge bank about how to play in certain conditions against certain types of bowlers, allowing them to make better decisions. Secondly, and a significant issues for Bangladesh players, is the way many of them practice. You will become better at doing what you do when you practice, there is no doubt, however many of their training habits will not make them better international players. I have lost count of how many times I have seen top order National squad players, having throw-downs against young boys, throwing from 18 yards away, where the ball never gets higher than waist high. If we ever play a team of bowlers who are 5 ½ feet tall bowling at 100kph, we will be unbeatable. Unfortunately, I have not seen any bowlers of that stature in the Test nations. What happens when training like this is that they don’t have to make a decision on length, as the ball never bounces. Consequently, they just take a minimal front foot movement and stand up and hit the ball. They feel like a champion, but it is a false confidence as they will never be exposed to that in a game.
  • Physical Condition: Fatigue and dehydration impact on concentration and therefore on ability to make good decisions. Anyone who has done any form of exercise can tell you, sometimes it’s hard to even talk when you are tired, let alone make a clear decision about a ball coming at you at 140+kph. Being physically fit and well prepared won’t help you play more shots, or improve your skills, but it will allow you to make better decisions for longer and therefore make more runs, more often. Based on some testing a few months back, it would be fair to say that on average the Bangladesh National squad is the most overweight and least aerobically fit team amongst the Test nations. They have improved slightly over the past couple of months, but have a long way to go. I think this partly explains why we make so many spectacular, short cameos, but are unable to go on and make big hundreds, regularly.

Innings management and construction

Some players are able to assess the conditions by using all the information available to them to take calculated risks, rather than uncalculated risks. This is definitely an area that our batsmen really struggle with. Young players always struggle with this, due to exuberance of youth, but good players learn quickly and become better and better at this. There are too many factors that come into play on this topic, but I will try to give you some simple examples to give you the idea.

  • Hitting over in-fielders not outfielders: How many times do you see batsmen hit the ball really well but straight down the throat of a sweeper on the boundary? If you are Kieron Pollard or the like, the sweepers don’t really matter but for most batsmen, particular our Bangladesh batsman, trying to clear a boundary rider is just a poor option. Occasionally it will work, but more often than not it terminates another short but spectacular innings. If you need a boundary, pick the most suitable bowler, use the short side of the field if there is one and hit over an infielder's head, there is always space behind them.
  • Allocating the strike to best suit the bowlers and batsmen at the crease: If there are right and left arm off spinners operating from both ends and a right and left hand batting combination at the crease, then the batsmen should obviously be looking for the LHB to be facing most of the left-arm spinner and he should be the one looking for the boundary if required, while the RHB is rotating the strike for him. The converse applies and likewise if swing bowlers are operating moving the ball in opposite directions. Get the correct batsmen on strike. Sometimes it is as simple as one batsman just struggling to get a bowler away, so together they have to get him off strike and let the other batsmen take that bowler. Too often I see our batsmen come together in the middle of the wicket and all they do is bump gloves 15 times, tap their bats together 18 times, stand on one leg, nod their head and then turn around and walk back. Use this time to assess the situation, ask how your mate is going, who is bowling next, where can we get singles, boundaries, how are we tracking against the target etc.
  • Target the right bowlers: In a tight run chase, there will always be a bowler or two that the fielding captain is nervous about, maybe the 4th or 5th bowler and he will always have to bowl some overs late, usually just after the power play, so he should be the one to target for your big overs if you need to reduce a required run rate. Normally they don't get a choice of end, so they bowl into the breeze or up the hill, so use that to your advantage too if you can. Too many teams try to attack the best bowler, instead of just working them for 6 runs an over with 4 fielders out and attacking the weakest link, who due to lack of experience and or skill may crumble under pressure and offer up more runs. Even if chasing 8 and over for the last 6, if you can take 18 from the lead bowler's 3 overs, you can score the 30 from the back up bowler. Of course you still need the skills to do so but by being a bit smarter in who and how you attack, you can put the odds of success in your favor.

Why?

So why do BD players in particular struggle with this, innings management and ability to concentrate for long periods of time? A quick glimpse around Dhaka gives us plenty of insight into the cultural influence on this limitation. How often do you see the following?

  • People carrying on face to face conversation while also having one or sometimes two phone conversations, unable to concentrate on one task and definitely unable to focus on all three simultaneously, but trying to.
  • Drivers looking for quick fix, diving into a small space, thinking they might get to their destination half a second quicker, but generally just slowing things down further. Reminds you of a batsman trying to get all his runs in one over, without thinking about who is bowling the next over.
  • The general lack of education and experience in actually applying themselves to a task and sticking at it for long periods of time. From an educational perspective, I don't suggest you need to be academically smart to be a good cricketer, but you must have the capacity to learn from your own experiences, good and bad and also from others experience in order to improve. I think the school environment at least encourages people to learn how to learn.
  • The hierarchical nature of society in Bangladesh creates people who are good at following instruction, without thinking about why they are doing something. Again, I don't suggest this type of culture is wrong or bad, but it does not lend itself to a game that requires constant analysis, assessment and independent decision making. There is no one in the middle with you when you’re batting telling you which shot to play and not to play; you have to work that out.
  • Who have they to learn from? There is no one in Bangladesh who has ever done it. Young players don’t get the opportunity to bat in the middle with an experienced player who has done it before, who can talk them through it. The one positive of the BPL is that it brings players like Brad Hodge and Simon Katich to Dhaka which provides a great opportunity for our players to bat with them and talk batting with them, even though it is T20. You can see Brad Hodge manages his innings even in a T20 game and it was no surprise to see Shamsur Rahman and Sabbir Rahman benefit from the exposure to him. Hopefully they have retained the information and can apply it when he is not there.
  • First class cricket – as mentioned earlier the condition of most of the wickets in BD are so flat and low, that there is nothing for the bowlers, so a large part of the decision making process goes out the window. They can just push forward and adjust to what they see off the front foot. This was no more evident that last season’s domestic cricket, when the only wicket with any life or movement (SBNCS) in Dhaka, there was only 1 first class hundred scored in both the NCL and the BCL, by Roqibul Hasan. I think (without looking through scorecards) there may have been an 80 odd and a few 60’s. All the big runs were scored on the really flat wickets in Bogra and Chittagong. If we have more players making runs on the SBNS, we are making progress.

So when you consider all of that, we have a ways to go before we see players consistently making big scores, despite the best intentions of all involved to do so, it is a foreign concept and requires skills that we don't have just yet. The thing that frustrates fans (and coaches) is that occasionally someone has a good day, maybe gets dropped, maybe gets a favorable decision, conditions suit them and they score big. Unfortunately too many people see that that as the norm, and expect it to happen all the time, unfortunately that is the anomaly, not the norm and the consistent performance is the short, spectacular innings. Our expectations are falsely increased, when reality is nothing has changed.

 

About the author(s): Richard McInnes is quite possibly the most beloved coach associated with the Bangladesh cricket infrastructure. Why? Perhaps it is because unlike other coaches, with the exception of Jamie Siddons, he is clearly and demonstrably invested with the Tigers. Or perhaps it is because he is actually in the midst of a second coming after a few years back in the Aussie setup. Most coaches give their best shot and then consider their Bangladeshi stint done. Actually it is all of the above plus the undeniable fact that he, singlehandedly is educating a non trivial portion of the fan base. Tigers fans are as mature as the players. Under the nick of Observer, Richard has been, for over 8 years, teaching us the process that is cricket.

 

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