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Learning to fight again

A 35th consecutive defeat seems no occasion to be positive about Bangladesh

Wisden CricInfo staff
A 35th consecutive defeat seems no occasion to be positive about Bangladesh. But in the last two games, they have given signs of the Bangladesh of old, which fought feistily and played with vigour. In recent times, as in the World Cup, they have looked incapable even of putting up a fight.
That would not have been so frowned upon had Bangladesh not been a Test team. But after being outclassed in every international encounter in the recent past, they finally showed some spunk here, making their second 200-plus score in a row, and taking six Indian wickets after that. That the landmark of passing 200 should be so celebrated is itself an indication of how far Bangladesh had fallen.
What has changed? For one thing, Bangladesh reversed a recent trend in their selection; of focussing only on youngsters. Bangladesh age-group cricket is vibrant, and a policy of building a team for the future cannot really be argued with. But an abrupt transition can be counter-productive, and Bangladesh have thrown too many callow youngsters into the deep end too soon in recent times.
They dropped a number of their senior players for the World Cup, which was all well and good - it was time for some of them, like Aminul Islam and Naimur Rahman, to go. But Akram Khan, until he was called into the squad due to injury, was also axed, and gritty veterans like Habibul Bashar and Khaled Mahmud also found it hard to get into the playing XI. Mehrab Hossain, a 23-year-old who had made Bangladesh's only one-day century, against Zimbabwe in 1998, at the age of 20, was also not in the plans.
This is not to suggest that these four men are world-class players, but they all have a quality that has been sorely lacking in Bangladesh cricket over the last few months - combativeness. Now that all of them are back, and others like Mohammad Ashraful are also showing spine, the team doesn't look quite as pathetic.
In defence of the heavy weather that the Indians made of the chase, it must be said that this was more India A than India. Only three of the 12 men who played for India in the World Cup were in this side - and one of them was Dinesh Mongia.
Gautam Gambhir showed character in converting his start into a decent score of 71, but the quality of Bangladesh's bowling and the benign pitch made sure he wasn't tested. He has made bagfuls of runs in domestic cricket on pitches such as these against attacks of at least the same quality, so too much must not be read into this performance. He is at least getting a fair chance to show his skills.
Sadly, Abhijit Kale will not get the same opportunity. When Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh get back in the team for the next match, Kale will be back on the bench. When Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid return to the squad, he'll go back to domestic cricket. He should have batted at No. 3 or, at worst, at No. 4 today.
Promoting Parthiv Patel up the order was a good move, though. It is rumoured that Dravid would like to get back to being a specialist batsman, and if that is to happen, India must find a wicketkeeper who can bat. Thus, Patel is not competing for just the wicketkeeper's place, but also for the seventh batsman's.
Amit Varma is assistant editor of Wisden.com in India.