Bangladesh troubled as business end nears
The first ODI debacle was an example of how fragile the confidence of Bangladesh's players can be, even in seemingly unassailable match situations. However, with so much cricket left in the 2013-14 season, expectations of this side, one that has made steady progress at home over the last few years, will continue to rise despite the myriad challenges facing each cricketer.
The 13-run defeat to Sri Lanka was Bangladesh's third in six days, a drastic change in results after a draw in the second Test. Unnecessary off-field issues have spiralled, and the team is struggling with injuries, loss of form, and tardy attitude. The problems have outweighed the benefits of players in good form, a well-timed debut and a late-blooming career. And all of this is taking place in a group of players who are either young men or inexperienced at the international stage, or both.
To balance the difficulties faced by Mahmudullah, Sohag Gazi and to some extent Nasir Hossain, because of their form and new fame, Bangladesh have the experience of Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal. Shakib apart, however, the other two have not been at their best. Tamim has a neck strain, and his resignation as vice-captain continued the cat-and-mouse game between him and the board.
On the field, Mushfiqur made a tactical blunder that facilitated Sri Lanka's recovery. By not using Shakib soon after after the visitors were 67 for 8, Mushfiqur let a defining advantage slip. Shakib ended up breaking the ninth-wicket stand, but not before it was worth 82 in 14 overs.
Bangladesh's explanation wasn't convincing: they do not use left-arm orthodox spinners against left-hand batsmen - Thisara Perera - because the ball is spinning in and can be hit with the angle. Shakib has 300 international wickets, though, and has dismissed his share of left-hand batsmen. In fact, the first chance Perera offered was against left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny, but Gazi had dropped the catch at long-on.
Gazi, and Mahmudullah, have appeared low on confidence against Sri Lanka, especially under pressure. Mahmudullah's form dipped after he played a role in Bangladesh's 3-2 home ODI series win over West Indies in late 2012. He was vice-captain at the time but has not been the same cricketer since.
Mahmudullah lost his Test spot in Zimbabwe and was in and out of the team for much of last year. After a two-ball duck and substandard fielding in the first ODI, in which his bat-pad dismissal was similar to his exit in the second Test, he is under pressure.
Gazi had started well against West Indies, the same series in which Mahmudullah was powerful. The offspinner led the attack on his first international tour, to Sri Lanka, but on the following tour to Zimbabwe, Gazi was downgraded in the pecking order, after Shakib Al Hasan and Enamul Haque Jnr.
Gazi lost form on an A-team tour, recovered it to an extent in domestic cricket, and bounced back against New Zealand by scoring a hundred and taking a hat-trick in the same Test. He has been poor against Sri Lanka, though, bowling far too full and quick to batsmen proficient at playing offspin.
Nasir's loss of form is surprising; his highest score across formats during Sri Lanka's visit is 42. He can take a blinder of a catch one day and drop a sitter the next. His decline says much about how players can become stars in Bangladesh, and with little playing experience elsewhere in the world, they take that tag too seriously.
There is a school of thought that some young players have found it difficult to handle their recent success. Dhaka, the nerve centre for cricket in Bangladesh, is a small pond when compared to the international arena. Shakib is the country's biggest star, and not just in cricket, which gives his team-mates a similar footing. Some of the newer players, like Nasir and Gazi, have shot up from domestic cricket quite quickly, and have found success and fame.
The reaction to the defeat in the first ODI has been muted, with most players staying out of sight and the team resting, instead of being put through bad-boy nets. There was a clearing of the air within the team the day after the match, and now Bangladesh have to turn it around on the field. If they fail to put their troubles behind them in the second ODI, it could prove dangerous as the team enters the business end of the home season - the Asia Cup and the World Twenty20.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here