Shakib Al Hasan had joked earlier this year that Bangladesh must be the fittest cricket team in the world after observing the number of overs they spend fielding. On that day, Bangladesh's top order had collapsed for the second time in the Dhaka Test against Sri Lanka. Shakib was making a point about how two or three of their batters lacked mental strength but were perhaps physically fit. Within Shakib's light-hearted comment lied a bigger truth.
Bangladesh's bowlers have done the heavy-lifting this year, especially compared to their batters. Their bowlers putting on long hours and fielders chasing leather after a disappointing score on the board by the batters is a common sighting. Bangladesh's bowlers have the second most number of overs in 2022, and the team above them is England who have played five Tests more.
The batters, however, have faced the second-fewest number of balls this year, underlining their culpability.
Obviously, it is not just the physical effort or the number of hours that should be considered. Bangladesh's fast bowlers have improved significantly while the spinners have maintained their long-standing reputation.
It might seem odd at first to highlight the Bangladesh bowlers on the day that two Indian batters scored hundreds in total domination. But to bowl 195.3 overs across two innings with roughly three full bowlers after two got injured, deserves some praise. Shakib, playing with a rib injury, bowled only 12 overs in the first innings while Ebadot Hossain's last contribution was Shreyas Iyer's wicket on the second morning. It was left to Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Khaled Ahmed and Taijul Islam to bowl most of the 97.3 remaining overs.
Apart from the Mount Maunganui miracle and a couple of big knocks against Sri Lanka, it has been a forgettable 2022 for Bangladesh's batters in Tests. Their top four have produced just two centuries and four fifties this year, averaging the second lowest total in 14 years.
Mehidy, Player-of-the-Series in the ODIs and the one who keeps contributing with bat and ball consistently, defended the batters but also said that Bangladesh have to work on their mistakes.
"Batsmen have fewer opportunities than a bowler, who get to bowl in spells," he said. "They can make a comeback. Batsmen don't have that luxury. Our bowlers have improved and are always making contributions. Batsmen have to develop further. We will work on it. They are talking about it, especially their mistakes. They are trying to find solutions."
Mehidy Hasan Miraz - "I feel that our batsmen will definitely make a comeback. If they work on their mistakes, they will find a solution"•Associated Press
Mehidy believes that if the batters can make a fist of the massive task in hand over the next two days against India, it will certainly help their self-confidence.
"You need to have skills to survive in international cricket. We have skillful players in the team. They have been playing well for a long time. But it is a team game. Not everyone will have the same form. I might not have as good as a series as this one in our next series.
"This is how it goes. It is important to make contributions in the team, and to come back to form. I feel that our batsmen will definitely make a comeback. If they work on their mistakes, they will find a solution.
"The wicket improves in Chittagong, as we have seen in losing a Test match here. A Test match isn't decided in one day. We have to keep batting, although it is a big challenge. It is also a huge opportunity for our batters to play a long innings. Two days are remaining. Playing well in this match will give them a lot of confidence," he said.
Mehidy avoided making a comparison between the batters and bowlers, but it is clear that he is part of the group that has contributed heavily for Bangladesh this year. The fast-bowling group has caught the eye with their match-winning efforts in the big moments. Ebadot, Mehidy and Taskin were key players in New Zealand, while Taskin played a big hand in South Africa. Mehidy had a monumental outing against India, helped by Shakib and Ebadot with the ball.
It is hard to find a consistent streak by the batters. Litton Das has looked to be in best form while Mushfiqur has had his moments in Tests this year. Mahmudul Hasan Joy, Tamim Iqbal and Yasir Ali all showed glimpses of form, but it hasn't been an overall good year for them. There's still a few chances remaining in the rest of this game and the next Test, though.
If they can somehow mastermind a turnaround, Bangladesh's batters will get all the plaudits. More than that, they will want to land a final contribution in a Test side that started off in a magnificent manner this year, but hasn't quite reached those heights since then.