Bangladesh v India, 2nd Test, Dhaka May 25, 2007

Whatmore regrets fielding first



A decision to bowl first and a couple of dropped catches kept Bangladesh under the sun and under attack throughout the day © AFP
It was evident within half an hour's play today that Bangladesh's decision to bowl first was masochistic. Initial suspicions that this was no psychological ploy. they must surely have misread the wicket, were confirmed after the day's play by Dav Whatmore, their coach, who also explained they had wanted to use the first session of the first morning.

"We knew what the conditions overhead were, but not on the ground," Whatmore said. "We thought there would be a bit more advantage bowling first in the first session but it didn't work out."

After an initial period of settling down, the only discomfort experienced by the Indian batsmen came because of the hot and humid weather. The way Wasim Jaffer hooked the effort balls in almost slow motion and Dinesh Karthik played straight drives and punches on the up showed the wicket had no assistance for the bowlers whatsoever.

And the batsmen - one an opener under immense pressure following a pair and the other a specialist wicketkeeper not so long ago - are not even India's best. Tomorrow, the Bangladeshi bowlers will have to tackle Rahul Dravid, who has looked extremely comfortable and is closing in on a century, as well as Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly both fresh off hundreds.

"It will be even harder for them tomorrow," Whatmore acknowledged. "They just have to prod around and do the best they can. It looks like trying to get 10 wickets will be very, very hard to achieve." Getting 10 wickets might be too ambitious a target: if they can escape without getting seriously injured, that will be good enough. Mashrafe Mortaza and Syed Rasel, suffering from the heat, had to go off the field today.

The bowlers, though, could have done with the fulsome help of the fielders. Karthik was dropped at second slip by Shakib Al Hasan when he was 10 and India 18. Just after lunch, Mohammad Rafique dropped Jaffer off his own bowling. Jaffer was 42 then. "It is something that people could overlook a lot," Whatmore said. "Catches really make a difference. When we are desperately unlucky with an issue, it does help. It gives you the boost in such conditions."

It was believed that Whatmore and not Habibul Bashar was behind the move to field first. But Whatmore said the decision was taken at a meeting between the captain, the vice-captain, the selectors, and himself. Whatmore and the Bangladesh team would also know that the conditions will be just as friendly for their batsmen and, if they fail on the same wicket, there won't be many excuses.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer with Cricinfo Magazine