Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Chittagong, 1st day February 4, 2014

Robiul's axing highlights defensive approach

Bangladesh picked a lone specialist seamer for the first time in a Test, but their choice of Al-Amin Hossain over the more experienced Robiul was puzzling. The focus seemed more on containing runs

On many occasions, the short-term in a five-day game is given more priority. Presented with a situation where his bowling attack hemorrhaged 730 runs in the Mirpur Test, the Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim cut down on attacking options in the Chittagong game, thereby underselling his team's ability.

Even on the opening day, it was apparent that wickets were going to be hard to come by. Al-Amin Hossain was the only pace bowler in the attack, the first time Bangladesh were playing a Test match with a single front-line seamer. Spinners Abdur Razzak and Mahmudullah were included in place of Robiul Islam and Rubel Hossain to keep the runs down, probably string together dot balls and hope the batsmen make mistakes.

It was strange to see Robiul serve drinks on a ground where he has taken 16 wickets at an average of 20.87. He was the Player of the Series in Zimbabwe three Tests ago and in the Mirpur Test before this he had created enough opportunities to remain an automatic choice.

By only including Al-Amin, Mushfiqur has confused the status quo among the pace bowlers. Here is an understudy, without the full physical and technical build-up, being asked to bowl long spells and do a holding job, when he should have had the support of another hardworking pace bowler at the other end.

The explanation, through Mahmudullah's press conference, was that the lack of swing or bounce in the Chittagong wicket encouraged that decision. But Al-Amin, to his credit, did what was expected of him. He made few attempts to drag Kumar Sangakkara out of his driving area, but swerved some deliveries away from the left-handers. He had the openers on a leash by varying his length quite regularly.

Nevertheless, it was quite difficult to understand why Robiul wasn't picked as the team's leading seamer when his record and form says enough. But a less experienced, more vulnerable pace bowler was chosen ahead of him, because the team management wanted Al-Amin's control rather than Robiul's wicket-taking ability.

When Razzak walked off with a strained left hamstring after just four overs, Mushfiqur was a bowler short against the might of Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. They duly put on a sizable stand of 178. Mahmudullah, as expected, was insipid. He bowled short to Sangakkara and got punished, but later accounted for Jayawardene against the run of play. To be fair to a middle-order batsman who bowls spin, it is quite harsh to expect him to do a specialist spinner's job despite taking 12 wickets in his last game, a first-class Bangladesh Cricket League match.

He said the new ball spun more than the older one, but he didn't hold an opinion on the pitch just yet.

"It is a little tough to make predictions about this wicket," Mahmudullah said. "We have to see what happens tomorrow. We hope that there will be spin. This morning it spun for a while with the new ball while it didn't during the middle period and then later with the new ball. We have to work hard tomorrow so we have to start well. If we can take two early wickets, we can capitalise on that."

On the second day, Bangladesh will depend on Shakib Al Hasan's dipping flight and ability to extract turn. Sohag Gazi too will have to bowl a less flat trajectory.

Mahmudullah said it was the team's tactic to bowl to cut out runs. "It is not defensive, just a different tactic. They are good players of spin, so it becomes necessary to contain the runs. Then you wait for them to make a mistake.

"There were times when we did miss the length. Sometimes when the ball doesn't turn, spinners get frustrated. We did bowl a few bad balls but when we regrouped, the discussion was to contain the runs. We came back well at the end of the day," he said.

Sri Lanka's vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal said they too were surprised that Bangladesh picked only one seamer. But unlike Angelo Mathews, Mushfiqur doesn't boast of fast bowlers topping the speed guns and moving the ball in barren conditions, or spinners who can regularly break partnerships. There could be an attempt to keep Robiul's axing within the same mindset but it was far too defensive to drop your best fast bowler.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • syed on February 5, 2014, 6:18 GMT

    Afraid of being thrashed 2-0. They feel happy to be loose by 1-0 and not try to win the test and draw the series.Now there is every chance of loosing the series 2-0 because you have closed the door to win the match before it started. Why you want to play test matches when u don't have the belief of winning it at least in home conditions.Just stop playing tests and concentrate on ODI and T20s with the bigger teams.

  • Dummy4 on February 5, 2014, 4:51 GMT

    I am against the selection of Abdur Razzak for Test cricket. The team selection would've been perfect if Robiul was playing in place of Razzak. Razzak has done nothing to earn a place in a Test XI. No country in the world would ever select just 1 pace bowler no matter how much of a weakness their pace battery is.

  • sajid on February 5, 2014, 3:22 GMT

    Questions:1. Why did BD choose three pace bowlers in the first test? 2. Why did BD choose only one pacer for this match? 3. Why was Al amin preferred over Robiul? (Robiul was the man the series in Zimbabwe and took 16 wickets at 20.87 average in this ground) 4. Why wass Abdur Razzak given another chance? (He is not a test bowler and never bowled well in a test match). Bd has at least 2 left arm slow bowlers better than razzak.

  • Amber on February 4, 2014, 23:52 GMT

    It is still very early to evaluate whether or not the right players were selected by Bangladesh selectors for this test match, but the composition of bowlers in Bangladesh team do suggest the target was not to get Sri Lanka out twice but to minimize the runs scoring. This in my opinion was not the right approach especially when everyone in the cricket world is questioning about Bangladesh's test match capabilities.

    From the first test till today, Bangladesh only relied on spin. But to-date the country was not able to produce a single world class spinner who can create havoc. If we compare some really world-class spinners from other countries we will find out that almost all of them flourished alongside a formidable pace attack.

    BCB must realize that Bangladesh is anyhow losing with spinner heavy attack and therefore should switch to pacer friendly wickets. Losing on those wickets will not hurt them however will present them a greater opportunity to win.

    Wake up Bangladesh

  • Dummy4 on February 4, 2014, 23:48 GMT

    QUESTIONS?...Does Bangladesh have good attacking pace bowlers? Did they make any impression ever showing an attack by their bowling department? Why BCB is not able to find pace bowlers to bring up their bowling department to a standard? Did Bangladesh decided to be mediocre on bowling side and leave everything to their Batting department? Can't they find 10 good international standard seamers out of huge cricket fan population? Why would BCB spend so much money to their domestic cricket if it does not give an impression to produce quality pace bowlers?????.....

  • Sriram on February 4, 2014, 20:35 GMT

    Seriously, how do you build a team with that selection. What bangladesh needs is positive intent not such defensive strategies!

  • enayet on February 4, 2014, 19:43 GMT

    Bangladesh could have played Taijul Islam or Saqlain Sajib in place of Razzak. They have been doing quite well in the domestic circuit.

  • Dik on February 4, 2014, 19:42 GMT

    All these people are defending this decision by saying spin is Bangla's main option so they should stack the line up with spin. Well that's not how it works. First of all, between Razzak and Robiul in whites, I'd take Robiul any day. Razzak is not a red ball bowler. He's horrible in test.

    Secondly, for the "main option" -- that is spin, to work, it needs support. It's like soda. It's great. But you can't drink 4-5 cans a day! Al-Amin had some nice spells on this pitch. Who's to say Robiul wouldn't have done a better job than Razzak's 4 over for nothing?

    Really, Bangladesh doesn't seem to think these things through. First they stacked the line up with pacers. Now they outdone that horrible decision by going with 5 spinners line up! Where. Is. The. Balance!

  • Nozib on February 4, 2014, 18:13 GMT

    What mushfiq did just the right thing..spin is the main strength of Bangladesh and they can do better with that...stop criticising and support Bangladesh pacer critic is right because robiul and rubel both are not impressive...Best of luck for Bangladesh Cricket Team...Tigers will roar again...

  • Dummy4 on February 4, 2014, 17:33 GMT

    Razzak is a great ODI and T20 bowler but doesn't have the temperament or mindset of wanting to adapt to the requirements of test cricket. No question about his abilities and he has also reached an age when unlearning, relearning is hard to do. We should save him for ODI cricket so that his impact is more deeply felt in those matches. Robiul seems to be lacking fitness. He must be ordered to train hard and be provided with all the physio support required to be able to play 2 tests in a trot. Rubel should never be allowed in test cricket again unless he performs for a whole year at first class cricket. ODI and T20 suits his style. But he still has age on his side to learn about the lines, lengths required in test cricket by playing first class or A team level longerversion games. Al-Amin looks promising. But if we want to rely on only spin we should look for and develop leg spinners too since neither Razzak nor Mahmudullah will cut it as pure bowlers in the long run.

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