Bangladesh v India, 2nd ODI, Mirpur May 12, 2007

Bangladesh still novices at chasing

The woes of Bangladesh batting veer from the promising Aftab Ahmed bent on giving his wicket away to Javed Omar and Habibul Bashar whose over-cautious approach often puts the brakes on the run chase

The promising Aftab Ahmed often leaves one disappointed and justifiably wanting more © AFP

Aftab Ahmed frustrates Bangladeshi people and it is understandable why. Too often he looks promising - when he does, he makes many good bowlers look ordinary. But too often the promise ends too soon. It is like a one-sided love affair for the crowds and Aftab hurts them like an unfulfilled promise. Today he did it again, and summed up the woes of Bangladesh batting, which veers from one extreme to the other.

After Tamim Iqbal's dismissal early in the innings it looked like Bangladesh would easily cave in. But Aftab, promoted to No. 3, set about to dismiss the notion by treating the Indian bowlers with disrespect, straight-driving, charging and back-scooping Zaheer Khan. He flicked Munaf Patel for a six and then cover-drove him for a four. He brought the crowd joy and for a while they forgot the terrible heat. And then, not surprisingly, he gifted his wicket away.

Dav Whatmore, pretty much resigned to Aftab's tendencies, probably spoke for the entire nation today. "More or less he [Aftab] scored his average, didn't he?" he asked. "Whenever he gets to 25-30, I start to get a little bit worried. Today was a glaring example. There was at least a fifty for the taking for him. Probably a lot more." Aftab's average hovers in the high 20s yet the crowd love him because he entertains them and they get frustrated because he does that for too brief a while.

Javed Omar, on the other hand, scored 11 off 33 while Habibul Bashar took 88 deliveries to score 43. One chase pretty much reflects the team's batting worries. There are three men driving in the fourth gear on a busy highway, waiting for accidents. Two others neither go higher than the second gear nor do they venture out on highways. The first type make good starts, but don't convert them into big ones. The second type rob the momentum too often. Neither are ideal and Saqibul Hasan is the only middle ground. The problem gets accentuated when Bangladesh are chasing. "We haven't been successful chasing big totals in the past," Whatmore said, "250 is the highest we have chased successfully. Perhaps, there's truth to that." Numbers, for once, do not lie in this case.

The inexperience when Bangladesh chase is too obvious. Omar's batting strategy of stonewalling the bowlers in the initial overs doesn't really work with a high target to be chased. So far he hasn't shown he knows any other way of batting. His lack of alertness in running between the wickets cost Bangladesh a good start today, when he was caught ball-watching, and they lost Tamim's wicket. "It was silly. It was just a gift," said Whatmore, "One fellow hits it pretty hard, there's good fielding, and the non-striker is just watching the ball. Bad cricket all around."

Javed Omar's ball-watching today meant that Bangladesh lost the explosive Tamim Iqbal very early in their 284-run chase © AFP
Yet it's not that they have never worried international bowlers. When Aftab was going at it today in what turned out to be a comprehensive defeat, when Tamim was giving Zaheer some stick in the first game, and when Mohammad Ashraful clobbered South Africa in the World Cup match, the bowlers did not have a clue. Fielders ran here and there and captains had conferences. "We have the ability to scare some people as we showed today," said Whatmore, "But we continue to present some easy gifts to people. When we don't we are capable of causing major upsets, which we need to do more often."

That they are playing against sides that are much more experienced cannot be ignored. As Whatmore said, "This is not an excuse, just a fact." Bashar has played 112 matches, Ashraful 102, Aftab 67 and Omar has been around for 12 years. They are in the big league now and here chasing well is a part of being successful. Wins based on batting well first and then choking out the opposition are no longer good enough.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer with Cricinfo Magazine