Bowlers need to show more passion - Mushfiqur

Bangladesh captain defends decision to bowl first; says bowlers need to take a hard look at themselves after loss in first Test

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Mushfiqur Rahim feels his fast bowlers must look inwards for improvement  •  AFP

Mushfiqur Rahim feels his fast bowlers must look inwards for improvement  •  AFP

When asked of his decision to bowl first in Potchefstroom, a decision that baffled many, Mushfiqur Rahim claimed lack of local knowledge as one of the factors that influenced him. The move backfired, with Bangladesh conceding close to 500, and he wasn't happy with the bowlers. In reality, it was also perhaps a case of having little confidence in his batsman, especially early in the Test against a fiery pace attack on foreign soil.
In Bangladesh's second innings, those fears were realised as they were bowled out for their first sub-100 score since 2007. Mushfiqur said the decision to bowl was taken by consensus, surprising given how tightly the team management controls decision-making.
"All of us took this decision [to bowl first]," Mushfiqur said after the 333-run loss. "We didn't know much about South African wickets, so it was hard for us to predict. We practiced on totally different wickets. On any flat wicket, the help for the bowlers stay for the first two hours. If you think about what will happen in the fourth innings and then get bowled out for 100 in the first innings, it becomes difficult.
"I think the second innings was the best time to bat but we still didn't score 400-500 runs. So you can't say that had we batted first, we would have scored 500 runs. But yes, had we applied ourselves better on the second or third day, we could have scored more runs."
Mushfiqur was critical of his fast bowlers, saying at least they should have kept the lid of runs even when wickets didn't come by. But even that wasn't to be in the first innings as they managed just two wickets across 78 overs.
"You can say that we should have batted first on a flat wicket but I didn't believe our bowlers couldn't bowl on a flat wicket," he explained. "At least they could have bowled in the right line and length, if not taking wickets. This skill gets you to play for the national team. Even I could have bowled two balls out of six in the right place. The bowlers disappointed me a lot in the first innings. A team benefits if you can at least contain the runs when you can't take the wickets."
He didn't stop there. The work ethic of the fast bowlers was also questioned. "How long will we keep giving this excuse? If they don't play well, they would be playing five or 10 Tests in 10 years," he said. "We have to find an alternative if they are not doing well. One has to develop these skills individually. I don't think anyone can teach you these things.
"Our bowling unit hasn't improved like our batting has over the last five years. They must have the hunger to do well. They can, at least, bowl in the right areas; forget about swinging the ball both ways. You don't need a coach to help you if you want to do it yourself. You represent your country to bowl five out of six balls in the right place. We have a lot to learn as a bowling unit and for that the bowlers need to show the passion."
In the second innings, the fast bowlers fared slightly better. Mustafizur Rahman picked two wickets, Shafiul Islam had one. Taskin Ahmed, however, went wicketless. Mushfiqur felt Taskin didn't aim high enough.
"If you look at Taskin's record in the last few Tests, he might have thought he did better on a flat pitch. But it doesn't mean we bowled well overall. Maybe it is his personal opinion," he said. "This is where a benchmark comes into the picture because if you are happy with so little, your improvement will stop. Even if you take five or six wickets, there will be room for improvement."
Bowling aside, Mushfiqur was equally disappointed with the final-day meltdown, saying they didn't show the requisite skill and character they'd developed over the last three years. "It is disappointing," Mushfiqur said. "I don't remember the last time we batted like this, to be honest. I knew it wouldn't have been easy to face their bowlers on the fifth day although the wicket was good. I thought we would at least bat for two sessions today.
"There are ways to lose or draw a game, but we didn't show our skills and character. I am really hurt. I apologise to our nation. But we have another opportunity in the next Test where we need to take a massive step. We have to maintain the respect that we have gained in the last two-three years. Otherwise we can only take humiliation back home."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84