Pakistan v Bangladesh, 2nd ODI, Faisalabad April 11, 2008

Reality bites

It probably helps if you are coaching Bangladesh to be both grimly realistic and cautiously optimistic. Luckily for Bangladesh, Jamie Siddons is able to do both
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Bangladesh have had a tough tour to Pakistan so far, but their time will come, believes coach Jamie Siddons © AFP
 

It probably helps if you are coaching Bangladesh to be both grimly realistic and cautiously optimistic. You must accept that defeat will, at present, mostly be inevitable, but you must also be able to draw from it some solace, something to hold on to. Luckily for Bangladesh, Jamie Siddons is able to do both.

Defeat by seven wickets in Faisalabad, where they were defending a defendable, rain-affected target could easily be put aside as yet another dispiriting loss. Shoaib Malik, the Pakistan captain, later argued it wasn't an easy win, but you suspect he said it to please himself more than anything else, for Pakistan were never really pushed at any stage of the game.

But for Siddons, there was something to take from Faisalabad. This was, as he pointed out, the second-highest score Bangladesh had ever made against Pakistan. And no, it wasn't difficult to lift his side's spirits after another loss. "I don't find it hard at all to keep them up," he said. "There were things out there that I saw which were very exciting. We got some positives out of today's game. Tamim Iqbal's batting was one and I thought Mahmudullah Riyad played a fantastic knock towards the end."

Both were indeed accomplished hands, particularly Tamim's. He has a pleasant, erect left-handedness about him, which was most evident in a couple of punches to deliveries on the up through extra cover early in his innings. On both occasions the bowler was Umar Gul, who may be rusty currently, but is never a slouch. Tamim's on-side game is similarly easy on the eye, the on-drive off Rao Iftikhar Anjum the one to note, and a steady clip through midwicket later not to be overlooked.

But then most of Bangladesh's batsmen have the shots. It is the nous that is absent, of knowing when to attack, when to settle, who to attack, who to see off. At just the wrong moment, to just the wrong shot, Tamim gave it up; he went for 60, but it should have been - and Bangladesh will hope in years to come, will often be - much more. At least a hint of that batting sense came in Mahmudullah's maiden fifty towards the end of the innings, a smart knock, built on angles, percentages and good running.

A couple more contributions from the top order would have been handy, as coach and captain both acknowledged. Mohammad Ashraful, who perished for 22, probably referred to himself as much as Tamim when he said the top-order batsmen got out at the wrong time.

But these reality checks help ensure that Siddons doesn't get carried away, which is just as well, because hard days will continue to come for now. "My job is to get guys to perform internationally and in Tamim and Riyad there are two guys who can do that, so that is exciting for me to see. If you didn't see anything exciting out there in Bangladesh's performance then your cricket sense isn't great."

Though it would add some spice to the series, Siddons has recognised all along that a win over Pakistan would mainly be the result of something going very wrong in the home camp. Results, he stressed before the series began, were not as important as progress. "Most sides find it tough to win out here [in Pakistan]. Pakistan are fifth in the rankings and we're ninth and that is a big gap. But we have seen some positives out there today and are happy with that.

"We are a long way away from where we want to be. We have got to be patient. We're probably two-three years away from being the side we need to be. But this competition is great experience for our players."

In time it will show.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo