India in Bangladesh, 2007 May 28, 2007

Not the kind of domination India expected

Occasional brilliance has failed to mask that Bangladesh have a long way to go before they can consistently challenge bigger teams in Tests, like they have started to in the one-dayers



The opening pair of Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik are still evolving, but it might be India's best option when they go to England © Getty Images

Occasional brilliance has failed to mask that Bangladesh have a long way to go before they can consistently challenge bigger teams in Tests, like they have started to in the one-dayers. They looked every bit a side that had last played Test cricket 13 months ago, and to make matters worse, played 38 one-dayers over the same period.

On what became the final day of the second and final Test, Mohammad Ashraful epitomised what was wrong. For 46 minutes, he completely dominated every bowler in sight, and scored 67 runs in that time, when he had nothing to lose. And then, when he had pushed the field back, when he had got the opposition on the defensive, he played one shot too many. Dav Whatmore, the outgoing coach, has time and again said that Bangladesh manage to "scare" oppositions for a while, but seldom go beyond it. It will be one of Whatmore's biggest regrets that batsmen like Ashraful and Aftab Ahmed did not develop into more mature players during his tenure.

Mashrafe Mortaza was the only batsman who applied himself and showed what could be done if the better batsmen, too, had put their heads down. His strike-rate in both his half-centuries wouldn't suggest so, but he played proper Test innings, especially with tailenders at the other end. He didn't look to hit shots off every ball and manoeuvred the strike well. And when he saw the ball was there to be hit, he didn't take half measures.

The Bangladeshi bowlers, helped by the experience of Mohammad Rafique, have improved more than the batsmen. That also could explain what looked like a defensive move to field first on a flat pitch in the second Test.

With their coach gone, and their captain struggling for every single run, Bangladesh are entering a transitionary phase. It's for them to decide now whether they still need the experience of Habibul Bashar, who has resigned from one-day captaincy but has shown his intention to still serve Bangladesh as Test captain and an ODI player. Bashar has been criticised for being too defensive, but all-out attack every time may not be the right way to go either.

Bigger challenges await both the teams after this series - Bangladesh go to Sri Lanka and India to England. They will both go with a knowledge that they could have done better in this series.

For India, the Test series was expected to be easier than the one-dayers. They tried every bit to force a result in the rain-curtailed first Test, but were let down by their inability to polish off tails - accentuated by the absence of Anil Kumble due to fever - and their batsmen's failure to just go out and get quick runs in stop-start situations. In the second Test, they carried out a proper demolition job. After having batted Bangladesh out with centuries from their top four, they bowled Bangladesh out twice in a matter of 94.5 overs; in fact, It could have been much earlier, if the fielders had held on to the catches on the final day.

The biggest positive for India would be a second 100-run opening partnership between Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik in three Tests. More significantly, it resulted from perseverance from Jaffer who made a pair in the first Test. The partnership is still evolving, but it might be India's best option when they go to England. They do not have a Test match before that, but Rahul Dravid said that he has derived enough confidence from what he has seen and he will get to see more in the side games. Dravid should be happy with his own form, especially in the first Test when he walked out at 0 for 1 and scored an aggressive half-century.

The batting, over all, looked efficient but not dominating. The spell of domination came in the second Test when Jaffer had crossed his century and Dravid was approaching his. Apart from that, the batsmen suggested they might show discomfort against better opposition on tougher tracks.

Bigger challenges await both the teams after this series - Bangladesh go to Sri Lanka and India to England. They will both go with a knowledge that they could have done better in this series.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer with Cricinfo Magazine

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