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Mashrafe steers clear from excuses for fielding flop

After their 92-run loss to Sri Lanka, Mashrafe Mortaza found it hard to explain Bangladesh's fielding disaster at the MCG. Having tried a couple of times, he concluded: "Whatever I say will now sound like an excuse".

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
After their 92-run loss to Sri Lanka, Mashrafe Mortaza found it hard to explain Bangladesh's fielding disaster at the MCG. Having tried a couple of times, he concluded: "Whatever I say will now sound like an excuse".
Bangladesh's MCG fielding debacle isn't a new problem. Fielding has never been their strongest suit. As a lower-ranked cricket team, it should be.
Mashrafe, to his credit, didn't actually offer any excuses and if someone really needed to find out his reaction, his facial expression, every time there was a fielding error, should have been good enough. Mashrafe himself suffered one dropped catch off his bowling and another that went between wicketkeeper and slip, during his excellent opening spell.
At least the first of the dropped catches would have made a difference. Lahiru Thirimanne's edge looping towards Anamul Haque at slip was Bangladesh's gateway towards early advantage, but it was not to be. Throughout the afternoon session, the missed opportunities would make them suffer the ignominy to be only the second bowling attack, after India in 2013, to take only one wicket in a full ODI innings.
After Anamul dropped the sitter and Mushfiqur made a mess of the next edge in the ninth over, a pattern emerged. There were several half-stops that gave away a single or a two; throws from the outfield would come in a couple of bounces. There were plenty of chances for run outs with the batsmen attempting a second run but the throw would come in late.
This being Bangladesh's first ever outing at the MCG, the size of the outfield perhaps took a toll on their arms and confused their field placements. Sri Lankan fielders too had trouble chasing after balls in such a big outfield and there have been several such teams who have taken time to adjust to grounds like the MCG. But Bangladesh play regularly on much smaller grounds. Places like Mirpur, Chittagong or Fatullah are about 10 to 15 meters shorter than the MCG outfield if they were used fully, but the growing practice of bringing the rope in for T20 games has made these venues smaller so Bangladesh players are having to throw shorter distances.
But there was no excuse for a number of other missed chances. In the 22nd over, Mushfiqur missed a stumping. He has been prone to missing stumpings and caught-behinds. He had a good period between 2010 to 2013 before his standards slipped dramatically last year.
Anamul let a drive from Kumar Sangakkara go between his legs at cover. Taskin Ahmed dropped a caught and bowled off the same batsman, diving instead of simply taking one step forward. But Mominul Haque initiated the most talked about farce, dropping a simple chance at point when Sangakkara was on 60; his subsequent run out attempt was not backed up and Taskin, stationed at long-on, was caught by the TV cameras to have turned his back to the action soon after Mominul had dropped the catch.
The sloppiness was completed with a botched run out attempt. Dilshan and Sangakkara were in hand-shaking distance in the middle of the pitch but Anamul dithered badly in choosing between a shy at the stumps and a throw to the wicketkeeper before his eventual throw missed it's target and Dilshan, well short of safety, survived.
"We had fielding practice here but whatever I say will now sound like an excuse," Mashrafe said. "We didn't do well in our fielding, catching and bowling. I still feel that had we stopped them for around 280-300 or if Shakib and Mushfiqur batted for a bit longer, we might have had a chance. It was a good wicket. We just couldn't execute our plans.
"I can't give an excuse about the ground but fielding was disappointing today. It's very difficult to explain but as I said I can't give an excuse here. We couldn't and that's the problem. Hopefully we'll come up with good things."
In 2014, Bangladesh dropped 10 catches in four ODIs against Sri Lanka, including five in one match when they had reduced Sri Lanka to 67 for 8. When they lost to Afghanistan in Fatullah, three catches went down.
Fielding is a reasonable, if not entirely accurate, indicator of a team's mental and physical well-being. It doesn't necessarily show team spirit, but the level of enjoyment often translates to efficiency and facilitates brilliance. Although they said plenty of times over the last few weeks that playing in the major Australian venues excited them, there was a major lack of enjoyment at the MCG for Bangladesh in the field.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84