Bangladesh pay the price for lack of preparation
As the Zimbabweans celebrated their historic victory with champagne-soaked joy at the post-match presentation ceremony, the Bangladesh players stood still for a while, watching the revelry. It was a poignant moment as the group seemed collectively lost in thought, pondering their lost opportunities.
If the team's mindset in recent years is taken into account, however, it could well be that their thoughts are already of the backlash that awaits. A 130-run loss at the hands of Zimbabwe, a team that they have dominated regularly for the past six years, will not be easy to accept and the visitors will be keen to make amends.
From the wreckage of this match, two miserable batting performances stare back at every Bangladesh cricketer, coach, fan and administrator. A relatively experienced Bangladeshi batting line-up should have been able to give an impressive account of themselves against a bowling attack that has played a combined 31 Tests, and what transpired on a batting-friendly Harare Sports Club wicket should be considered a travesty.
The inadequacy of the Bangladesh's preparation and the botched first-class system back home has as much to do with the loss as the batsmen's lack of footwork against Brian Vitori or their inability to convert a start into a hundred. It also didn't help that they hadn't played a Test for 14 months, and in that regard the fault lies squarely with the Bangladesh Cricket Board.
The emphasis on one-dayers as preparation for the World Cup has come back to bite them. The BCB happily agreed to host New Zealand for only one-day matches in October last year and shut down the first-class competition. Though Bangladesh stormed to a 4-0 series win, the magnitude of their win hasn't translated into long-term consistency.
Instead, it has exposed the fact that the Board's priorities lie almost entirely in Dhaka's club cricket. By lessening the importance of domestic first-class cricket - a format in which thethe likes of Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes and Rubel Hossain have rarely appear last 3 to 4 years, they sowed the seeds of this defeat.
The aforementioned players, and some of the others, also haven't done themselves any favours by losing concentration after they were set and batting with an artificial sense of confidence on their 'own game'. In the first innings, Shahriar Nafees rode his luck one too many times and got out on 50. Mohammad Ashraful valued his wicket for a change, but not for more than 73 runs, and Shakib Al Hasan's forceful advances had him gambling on the Zimbabwean bowlers' lengths; a bet that he lost.
"There's a lot of talk going on. It's time to stop talking and put them into action," said Stuart Law, Bangladesh's new coach. "Everything was discussed but if you can't back the talk with actions, you look stupid."
Law may or may not have been referring to Tamim's strut at the press conference on Sunday, which would have looked better had he not got out in slightly brainless fashion to Christopher Mpofu and was a thwarted attempt at brinkmanship.
Shakib, too, batted poorly and he admitted it wasn't the right approach. "We never thought of drawing the Test match, of defending and spending time at the crease," he said. "We thought of winning the game. I thought I played some shots which were too early in the innings. I shouldn't have played those shots.
"I don't know if this is the most disappointing day for us or not, but it is disappointing to lose a cricket match, especially in this situation against them. Taking nothing away from [the opposition], they were disciplined. They outplayed us in both departments," he said.
"Maybe it is because we haven't played longer-version cricket for a long time. Although we played some practice game and three-day game, actually it didn't help us to get the Test match feeling."
Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka