Match Analysis

Bangladesh err by picking three quicks

Bangladesh's decision to go in with an extra quick in place of Abdur Razzak has backfired badly

First-innings figures of 81-5-311-1 are a damning assessment of Bangladesh's pace bowlers. The decision to play all three seamers in the squad has been questioned a number of times, but it will probably be only answered after the game is lost.
The number of catches that went down can be another way of explaining the poor performance. But whatever happened in the last two days has not, apparently, disheartened the pace bowlers. Robiul Islam and Al-Amin Hossain looked to have tried the hardest, with Robiul even exchanging words with Mahela Jayawardene.
He tried everything in a six-over spell during the afternoon session. In between the staring match, he bowled bouncers, slower balls and changed his lengths. But it was not to be for the inexperienced pace bowler against a batsman who became the sixth highest all-time Test scorer.
"I tried a whole variety of deliveries but he wouldn't budge," Robiul told ESPNcricinfo. "So I thought, I can try a bit of staring, just to throw him off. I didn't say anything but he scolded me. Then I tried to get even, which didn't work. I mean, you cannot do that to great players. They never lose focus. When he was walking back to the dressing room, I apologised for my earlier behaviour, and being such a senior player, he said that fast bowlers are supposed to be this way, so don't be sorry.
"We are not disappointed, we can't be. We are international players, and we will bounce back in Chittagong. We have played well against them last year, in Galle, so I am confident that we can do well."
Despite the poor results, the selectors seemed to have a reason for picking each of the three quicks. Robiul Islam's full fitness confirmed his place in the line-up while Rubel Hossain's place came on the back of wickets in one-day cricket. Al-Amin bowled earnestly in his debut Test, and followed it up with good domestic performances.
Either Al-Amin or Rubel replaced Abdur Razzak from the last Test team, a decision which is most probably due to the three left-handers among Sri Lanka's main batsmen.
Razzak's Test record against Sri Lanka, and his middling first-class form, should have been enough to cast him aside but Bangladesh management, over the years, has banked on a very basic theory. They prefer having left-arm orthodox spinners against teams with more right-handed batsmen, and right-arm spinners against left-handed batsmen. There was even talk of picking Mahmudullah based on his bowling form in the domestic first-class competition, but Al-Amin was selected instead.
He bowled well on the second day, with two catches dropped and a wicket off a "Finn no-ball" and carried over the confidence into the third day. Robiul and Rubel bowled well in patches too but those patches got smaller as the day progressed and the runs piled on.
Rubel's Test average now stands over 81, and his bowling action is unrecognisable with the one he had when he came to Dhaka several years ago. He has long lost his sling, and despite the progress in one-day cricket, he requires basic work to bowl, and bowl well, in the longer version.
Al-Amin has been promoted from an understudy role to being the No. 2 in the pace bowling attack, and while he has tried as much as he can, there is a lot of work left to be done in his action.
With so little time left between international matches, tours and series, particularly in the next three months, Shane Jurgensen will have his work cut out. So will Richard McInness, the BCB National Cricket Academy head, who will have to work with the pace bowlers who will be left out of the senior side.
But the buck stops with the team management. Their theory of playing right-arm spinner against left-handed batsmen, and left-arm spinners against right-handed batsmen doesn't hold much water these days.
Bowlers must have the strength and guile to bowl to both types of batsmen. Had the focus been on playing the best available bowlers, then they have already made a mistake by picking Rubel.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here