Match Analysis

Bangladesh let India slip from their grasp, literally

Missed chances have cost Bangladesh repeatedly in recent times, and Friday was no exception

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Mehidy Hasan Miraz missed a tough catch and, to make things worse, fell face first on the ground  •  Walton

Mehidy Hasan Miraz missed a tough catch and, to make things worse, fell face first on the ground  •  Walton

The expression of anguish. Head in hands. Sometimes the head is thrown back. A kick to the turf. Maybe a cuss word. On the second day of the Dhaka Test on Friday, Bangladesh missed four chances in the field during the 159-run fifth-wicket stand between Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant, so all those reactions were on display.
Iyer and Pant offered two chances each before they were properly set after coming together on 94 for 4. The what-if scenario here can be tough to get into, but it doesn't need to be said that it's best to take catches and complete stumpings, particularly when you are playing against India.
Bangladesh's bowlers are quite used to their fielders missing chances. There have been different explanations on offer for the last 12 months, and if there was a bit of improvement between 2021 and 2022, it has disappeared during this ODI and Test series against India. They have missed 15 chances in total, including eight in the ODIs.
In Tests this year, Bangladesh have missed a total of 33 - of 67 - chances, counting both catches and stumpings. In terms of ratio of chances taken to missed, their 2.03 is the second-lowest among the Test teams, above only Sri Lanka's 1.71. West Indies and England are at the other extreme, at above four chances converted for each one missed.
In all formats this year, Bangladesh have missed 85 times, 21 more than in 2021, when their catching was especially poor at the 2021 T20 World Cup. They missed 22 chances in Tests then, compared to the 33 this year.
These numbers possibly don't matter hugely when the team is winning, but they hurt a lot when results are not going their way.
On Friday, Litton Das missed a tough chance at slip when Pant, on 11, edged Mehidy Hasan Miraz in the last over before lunch. The ball went quickly, and Litton got a hand to it. Had Litton held on, it would have been just reward for the spinners bowling a tight line to Pant.
Iyer then had two lives in the space of around 15 minutes when he was on 19 and 21. First, Mehidy leapt at gully to grab an edge off Taskin Ahmed, who had his tail up after removing Virat Kohli earlier in the session. Mehidy spilled the chance, and ended up slamming his nose into the ground.
The big miss came from Nurul Hasan, who missed a stumping off Shakib Al Hasan's bowling. It looked quite straightforward. The ball didn't deviate much going towards the wicketkeeper, and Iyer was well out of his crease. But Nurul fumbled, allowing Iyer to get back to safety.
Pant had another life on 59 when, in the middle of his big-hitting spell, Mushfiqur Rahim dropped him at long-on. It was a new position for Mushfiqur, who has kept wickets for most of his career. So the captain should have paid a bit more attention with Pant on strike, and on fire. Later in the day, Shakib himself would kick the turf in frustration when Mehidy couldn't gather the ball properly at point when R Ashwin and Iyer got into in a mix-up.
In the gap between the ODIs and the Test series, Bangladesh fielding coach Shane McDermott had explained the Bangladesh fielders' mindset.
"Talking about the fear factor, we think about potentially what are the repercussions of dropping a catch when the ball is in the air," McDermott had said. "We see a lot of high balls dropped under lights, because fielders have time to think. Trying to train what we think when the ball is in the air, is a very hard task. But it can be learned.
"When we drop catches under lights in critical moments, we create one of the greatest learning experiences. When the player walks off the ground, hopefully having won the game, we can easily say to them that 'look, [missed] catches don't lose matches.' It is a fact. It happens quite regularly. It is a part of the game. Obviously we want to drop as few catches as possible.
"As a team, if we drop a catch, our support staff and our team are gelling together really well, we are trying to keep everyone's spirits high. Who knows, it could be someone else tomorrow to drop one. We could lose the match, but as I said before, we are very happy with the way the boys are training and committing on and off the field."
This year, Tamim Iqbal and Russell Domingo have addressed the issue once each.
Tamim expressed his frustration after four dropped catches and poor ground fielding cost Bangladesh in the first ODI against Zimbabwe. Domingo was left bemused when Bangladesh dropped nine catches in five matches against Afghanistan in March this year.
Bangladesh seem to suffer from a mental block on this count. Even fielders who come with a good reputation seem to suffer. And a good position, possibly, is frittered away. Perhaps it is time to take a closer, and harder, look at the problem.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84