Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Updated: Thursday, May 20, 2004
Midpoint Analysis: The Spin Gamble and More

Rubu Islam

When the squad for ODI series against the West Indies was declared, there were not too many surprises. The team composition mostly reflected the fans? predictions. There was, however, one point where many experts could not agree with the selection board. The Caribbean pitches are generally fast and bouncy. Fast bowling is the best suit there. Many analysts could not justify the idea of selecting three spinners in the team. The abundance of left handed batsmen in the West Indies team made things look even worse since all of the selected spinners were left handed. Now that the one day series is over, and we did use two spinners there, it is time for us to use the statistics and results to determine whether that decision was justified or not. More importantly, this ODI series may give us some hints as to what form of Test squad we should form against the Windies.

Before going into the results and statistics, we should have a look at the arguments supporting the inclusion of the three lefties Rana, Rafique and Rajjak in the team. The very first argument that supports the selection board is the lack of quality pacers. There are only a few names to consider. Mashrafe and Sharif, the two promising youngsters, are out of picture because of injury. Talha?s fitness and form is questionable, and the newest sensation, Shahadat is still to bloom. We are left with Taposh, Tareq and Alamgir. Out of these three, Taposh and Tareq are in the team, and Alamgir is in the Test squad. Therefore, the selection board did not have too many choices. Of course, they could try out Shahadat, but considering his age and the friendship between fast bowlers and injury, it was a better decision to send him to Australia for training instead. It might not be off topic to add that Rana could easily be considered as a batsman based on his form during the Zimbabwe tour and the series against the Zimbabwe A team.

Analytical reasoning does not have any value unless it brings results. Since we did not win any ODIs, there is no way to say that the result is very good or impressive. We can, however, try to figure out whether this spin gambling did play any role in our losses. Would we have won if we were not depending so much on spin or would our losses have looked even worse? We fought neck to neck in the first ODI and the last two ODIs were much better than any other encounters between these two nations prior to this series. Did spin play any role in this ?not so clear? improvement? Let us see what the numbers say first.

How does our Hall of Fame batting look? Consider the averages:

Bangladesh Batting

Name                Mat    I  NO  Runs   HS     Ave
Mohammad Rafique      3    2   2    36   32*    -    
Manjural Islam Rana   3    3   2    40   33*  40.00
Khaled Mashud         3    2   1    39   30*  39.00  
Hannan Sarkar         2    2   0    40   36   20.00  
Faisal Hossain        1    1   0    17   17   17.00 
Habibul Bashar        3    3   0    44   42   14.66  
Rajin Saleh           3    3   0    38   20   12.66 
Mushfiqur Rahman      3    3   0    35   14   11.66  
Mohammad Ashraful     3    3   0    20   17    6.66  
Alok Kapali           2    2   0     6    5    3.00  
Khaled Mahmud         3    3   0     5    4    1.66  
Shahriar Hossain      1    1   0     0    0    0.00   
Tapash Baisya         3    0   -     -    -     -      

The surprising fact coming out of this batting average is that the first two on the list are two of the three left handed spinners we have talked most about. The other, Raj, did not play a game, so it is not possible to say anything about his performance. But, batting average shows that the other two deserved to be in the team even as batsmen. Rafique, after being in all three matches, created the wonderful record of not being out at all during the series.

They were, however, included in the team as bowlers, and therefore it is necessary to look at the bowling stats:

Bangladesh Bowling

Name                Mat    O      M     R   W    Ave  Best 
Manjural Islam Rana 3 20 2 70 5 14.00 3-21 Mohammad Rafique 3 19.4 1 69 0 - - Khaled Mahmud 3 20 3 78 3 26.00 2-15 Tapash Baisya 3 16 2 69 6 11.50 4-16 Mushfiqur Rahman 3 15.1 1 67 2 33.50 1-23

Once again, Rafique stands out: no wicket in the entire series. He, however, has performed well enough to support his inclusion. Taposh?s average is highly tilted by his performance in the second ODI, leaving Rana to be the close second. What do we see from this? The players under debate did support the validity of the decision of including them in the team, with the exception of Raj who never got a chance to prove himself.

However, this is all history. We can only use these stats to influence our decision to select the Test squad. From the ODI, it is quite apparent that the West Indies pitches are not always step mothers to spinners. Since the positions of Rafique and Taposh are fixed for the test series, we can safely say that the following players should also be in the squad: Javed, Hannan, Sumon, Rajin, Asharaful, Pilot, Rafique, Taposh and Rana. From recent performance, Rana obviously surpasses Mushfique, but the question is whether Mushfique is still worthy of the Test series? There are now six players fighting for the last two positions: Mushfique, Enamul Jr, Alamgir, Faisal and Raj, unless Raj is sent back home. In the just concluded home series, Faisal showed enough guts and consistency to deserve a Test cap, and he, to his advantage, very nicely used the lone chance given to him during the slog overs of the last ODI. Keeping in mind the vulnerable nature of our batting order, an extra batsman might not be a bad idea. In my opinion, one of Mushfiq, Enamul, Alamgir or Raj can be chosen depending on the pitch. Yes, it should be clear by now that there is nothing wrong with playing so many spinners, even though a Test match is a whole different ballgame.

The practice match can be a very good place to determine these two last positions. Let us hope at least for a well earned draw!