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Tentative footwork a sign of Bangladesh's scrambled minds

Time after time, the batsmen were rooted to the crease against India's fast bowlers

Imrul Kayes had his leg stump flattened, India v Bangladesh, 1st Test, Indore, 3rd day, November 16, 2019

Imrul Kayes had his leg stump flattened  •  BCCI

The handful of times Bangladesh made India think was when their batsmen broke out of their shell.
Early in the Kolkata Test, Shadman Islam furiously square-cut and pulled Umesh Yadav, and immediately Virat Kohli put the man back on the square-leg fence. Whenever Mushfiqur Rahim drove the ball firmly, even the might of the Indian pace attack had second thoughts about pitching it up to him.
On the second evening at the Eden Gardens, when India were threatening to end the game, Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah's short-lived counterattack brought balance into the contest. It was a reminder that even the greatest bowling attacks can be dealt with if you have clarity of mind.
Mushfiqur, who finished as the team's highest run-getter in the two Tests, didn't look to dominate, but his approach usually impresses on any opposition the value of his wicket. He had only one early dismissal in the four innings, but would still rue missing out on a bigger score in the second innings in Kolkata. He had a measure of India's bowling, and more importantly the pink ball.
Given their struggle to put up good scores, there was a lot of focus on Bangladesh's decision to bat first in Kolkata. But coach Russell Domingo and captain Mominul Haque had the right intention of pushing for a win rather than waiting for the opposition to hand them the opportunity. Their plan only fell apart because of the rest of the team's tentativeness.
Imrul Kayes, who made only 21 runs from 61 balls all series, was the epitome of this mentality. Whether he was defending or hitting out, he looked totally short of confidence, resulting in dismissals to whatever type of bowling he faced. The gap between his bat and pad was that of a batsman who has regressed despite playing more than ten years of international cricket.
Shadman, his opening partner, did a little better but the round-the-wicket angle and relentless accuracy of India's fast bowlers got to him too. The left-hander's dismissals had a lot to do with his lack of footwork, which was also evident in New Zealand earlier this year where he kept getting out after settling down at the crease. When a batsman is rooted to the crease, it lets the fast bowler corner him with his line and length.
Mominul had judgment issues outside off stump. In Kolkata, he was caught behind both times when neither delivery seemed to be heading towards his off stump. The same problem cost him a chance to build on his only substantial knock of the series, in Indore, when he was bowled after leaving an R Ashwin delivery. Mominul is an established Test batsman who has had a few dips in his career, so improvement is expected.
Mohammad Mithun, considered to be the right man to bat as high as No 4 in the Test line-up, has work to do as well. The 28-year old owns the Bangladeshi record for most first-class matches before a Test debut, which translates to a technique that is already etched into his system. It might be hard to shake him off some bad habits now, like his bat coming down at an angle against a really good bowler. He is essentially a strokeplayer who has made a career out of quickfire knocks that unsettle bowling line-ups. Perhaps the intention was to ruffle the feathers in the Indian ranks but Mithun, who made only 37 runs in four innings, isn't quite ready for that role yet.
Liton Das is another batsman who is known for his strokeplay, but he continues to be inconsistent, starting off really well but losing focus after hitting a handful of boundaries. It has been a problem that has plagued many a Bangladeshi batsman, with only Tamim Iqbal getting out of this mindset halfway into his career. Liton is known to be a recluse who doesn't spend a lot of time talking to coaches, and his temperament and mentality could do with a rethink.
And what of Mahmudullah? It may be hard to drop him now in the continued absence of Shakib Al Hasan, but his performance indicated the difficulty of one batsman shouldering so many important roles. Mahmudullah is an ODI enforcer and a T20 finisher. It might be too much to ask him to be the team's backbone in Test cricket as well. It is time for change of approach and the only way that will work is with input from both player and the team management.
All these batsmen, barring Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah for a brief period on the second evening in Kolkata, being rooted at the crease came at a huge cost. Perhaps their hanging back had a lot to do with their apprehension about this Indian fast-bowling attack. Half the battle is won in the mind, as many experts say, and most of the Bangladesh batsmen entered the Indore and Kolkata Tests with a preconceived notion that they were about to become lambs to the slaughter. Half the battle was lost right there.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84