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After the first Test against New Zealand ended in a draw, our forums lit up with what if scenarios. Should Bangladesh have gone for it? A member poses this question directly to our author who also happens to our resident arm-char all-rounder. His response is definitely worth a read.

You may say I'm a pragmatist, but I'm not the only one

Published: 17th October, 2013


SS asks on the BanglaCricket.com forum:

Razabda, what you think about the approach and the result? As I always wait for your insightful comments, I am personally feeling sad that we didn't go for win but realistically it might have been too risky.

SS, I thought my take was abundantly clear that the draw was the only realistic and laudable target for Bangkadesh, but I will elaborate.

The first thing to consider was the target itself. Was McCullum's target gettable and viable or was it a smokescreen?

Chasing targets in Test match on the last day is NOT easy. In the Entire history of Test cricket there has been only 23 occasions where a team has chased down a target greater than 255 in the 4th innings. In the history of test cricket, 4th innings batting averages are typically about 10-15% lower than 1st innings averages. This is why stronger teams than ours have not gone for it with gettable targets. I give you two links for the India example:

So, statistically speaking, McCullum knew he was hardly taking any risks.

We move to the next item: the New Zealand side of the equation. What was McCullum's motivation then if it wasn't some nostalgic FTW instinct? Well for a big-mouth who had claimed anything short of outright wins would be a failure, বড় কালাম ভাই had already had put the proverbial locomotion limb into the food-hole. He had only one shot. Put BD in with a plausible enough target for an immature team, watch them lose a bunch of wickets early on a pitch where forcing the pace was going to be a challenge and then hope the pressure (and NOT the ferocity of the bowling or the venom off the pitch) would cause us to collapse. He knew he couldn't possibly lose because if, God forbid the Tigers had, say rattled off 50 in the 1st 10 overs, he could just put everyone on the boundary and tell Bruce Martin and Boult to bowl 1 feet outside leg-stump to our right-handers and Sodhi and Braceweel the same to our southpaws. Wouldn't be done? Steve Waugh did it in the 2001 Brisbane test:

But McGrath pulled the shutters down when he bowled a wide line outside off-stump, just inches inside the legal width, and Waugh later defended the tactic.

"We did it when we had to and New Zealand did the same thing," Waugh said.

"There was a lot of wide stuff from their bowlers. It's Test match cricket and you're not going to hand out a victory on a platter.

"They had to work hard for it - that's what it's all about."


So to sum up, New Zealand set us on a fools errand in their one shot at maintaining some dignity from a match where they had been dominated (and could have lost had a few marginal calls gone our way). And perhaps there was an outside chance they could burgle a win.

Now onto the final item: How Bangladesh approached the chase. Based on points 1 & 2, the pragmatists would already say, "dude get the draw, it will be your moral victory". But we have dreamers in the fan-base and immature batters in the line-up. Mushy's instructions to TiK and Anamul was: play your natural game, according to the conditions. 

Throughout the match it was evident that the conditions were conducive to sticking around and not for forcing the pace. As I pointed out live, almost every batter who had tried to force the pace got out. Now NOT forcing the pace is not the same as slow scoring. If the bowlers are bowling a lot of tripe, take advantage. That's how Momin scored so fast in the first 100 runs of his. And forcing the pace against a new ball (on a slow pitch where the new ball was the most likely source of zip) was not the same as tonking a few against tiring spinners at the end of the match (as Shakib did).

Add on top of that the mindset of our openers. What would Anamul and Tamim be feeling if they had gone on to the Dhaka test with dual failures? Our batters _are_ an immature bunch. We would have already slightly lowered our chances of win on the more results oriented Dhaka pitch. And as others have pointed out, just recently, against the Windies, we thought we were better than Dhoni's bunch and "went for it". The result was a lecture from Chanderpaul to our batsmen on the grammar of Test match batting (can't find the Prothom Alo link).

It is in that mileau that we began our fourth innings "chase". The Kiwi bowlers certainly didn't give anything away and bowled mostly wicket to wicket lines. Nor was the field setting overly aggressive with fielders all around the batsman. So TiK and Anamul played the bowling to its merit and batted themselves into some form. New Zealand gave up the ghost fairly quickly and settled on getting their spinners some bowling practice. And that in turn was another mistake on McCullum's part. He should have called off the dogs when there was 1 hour of play left. Instead the situation was ideal for Shak to come in and get some batting form when (based on the evidence in the Caribbean, he couldn't even buy runs).

For all those fans who dreamed of a win or the NZ commentator who opined on our lack of adventure, I say "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it". If we had went for it and lost, NO ONE would remember it. It would have been the traditional "there goes Bangladesh, losing a Test match" refrain.

To wrap up, we played good cricket, dominated in scoring rate, wickets taken and hight-lights and got the draw against a higher ranked team. Let's live to fight another day


About the author(s): Razab Q. Chowdhury feels particularly adept at being an armchair critic based on his past history of playing school cricket and dispatching a slew of West Indian cricketers while at college. He deigns to grace our forum as RazabQ and is a forum moderator.


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