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Match Analysis

Bangladesh's fielding is in decline and nobody knows why

They have dropped 24 out of the 69 catches in Tests this year

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
A dejected Ebadot Hossain is on his haunches after an umpire's decision goes against him  •  Randy Brooks/AFP via Getty Images

A dejected Ebadot Hossain is on his haunches after an umpire's decision goes against him  •  Randy Brooks/AFP via Getty Images

A little while after Bangladesh figured out that they could've had Nkrumah Bonner if only they'd thought to appeal, they saw another edge from the same batter go between wicketkeeper and first slip. There was a loud cry, possibly from the bowler, but it could have been from anyone.
After being bowled out for 103 on the previous day, Bangladesh dropped three catches on the first afternoon. On the second morning, the bowlers started creating chances again but a lack of luck, awareness and intent from the fielders ruined all that good work. Litton Das and Mehidy Hasan Miraz took pretty good catches later in the day to keep West Indies' lead to 162. It could have been lesser had the easier chances been taken earlier in the innings.
All told, Bangladesh dropped five catches and missed a definite nick through to the keeper. Their use of DRS was iffy too. Jermaine Blackwood would have been out lbw for 39 had they opted for a second opinion, but they didn't, and he went on to make 63.
Kraigg Brathwaite, who top scored with 94, survived chances on 0, 16 and 63. This is a batter who has dominated Bangladesh for 11 years. It was careless to give him so many reprieves. Bonner, meanwhile, made only 33 but he added 62 for the third wicket with Brathwaite. He was on 14 when the edge wasn't spotted and on 22, when the ball flew between wicketkeeper and first slip, where Najmul Hossain Shanto stood.
Bangladesh's catching has hurt them in all formats this year. In T20 cricket, they have dropped one-third of all the catches that have gone their way: 84 taken and 39 dropped. The number is similar in Tests where they have dropped 24 out of 69 chances.
This won't be solved until each individual decides to step up. Bangladesh employ Shanto, Yasir Ali (currently injured) and Litton (when he is not keeping wicket) in the slip cordon. But Shanto has dropped five of the 11 chances that have come his way over the last three years. This has added to the criticism of a player who has scored just one fifty in his last 17 Test innings.
It is clear there is a real problem. But any time the subject comes up, the BCB and the team management turn defensive. The fielding coaches probably know what's going on but they're rarely put up in public to explain anything. Bangladesh have turned to several experts in recent times - Ryan Cook came and went. Rajin Saleh was used for one series on a temporary basis. Now it's Shane McDermott - but nothing is making a difference.
In March this year, head coach Russell Domingo blasted the fielders for dropping nine catches in five white-ball games against Afghanistan. But Domingo also admitted he didn't know why this keeps happening.
"It is unbelievable when you think about it," he said. "If we knew what [the problem] was, we probably wouldn't be doing it. Whether it is concentration, confidence or dealing with pressure, I am not 100% sure. We just have to make sure we try to improve. We make too many mistakes in the field that have cost us. It cost us in the World Cup, here, Test matches. Just too many dropped catches. You can do all the drills in practice but the players have to catch the balls in the games. That is the bottom line."
Selector Habibul Bashar has a theory though. Last year, during the T20 World Cup, he said the fielders were making mistakes because the pressure was getting to them.
"You can have a bad day in batting or bowling, but we have to be more consistent in our fielding. It becomes more pertinent in big tournaments. Misfielding ruins the team's tempo. We are a better fielding side, but I really want to see a lot of improvement in this area.
"We do a lot of fielding during training. When we play at home or in a big tournament, it is important to handle the psychological pressure. I think we miss out on handling that pressure. Some of our best fielders dropped the catches. We have to work on how to handle pressure moments, and take important catches in these moments."
Bangladesh, like many other Test teams, have struggled with DRS. Mominul Haque, the previous Test captain, had a tough time answering questions about why so many of his reviews turned out to be poor. Now it's Shakib Al Hasan's turn.
A bowling line-up that doesn't have an X-factor - like a bowler with 90kph pace or someone really world-class - needs to be patient to take wickets. But that only works if you have a good fielding unit, one that can compensate for missing skillset by taking all its catches.
Winning Test matches is hard enough when your batting is as inconsistent as Bangladesh's. Now their fielding standards are in decline too, leading to a situation where the captains are exasperated and the coaches are dumbfounded. Cricket is a team game but this is an individual problem. Unless each and every player in that dressing room commits to being better, there will be more edges missed, more catches dropped and more reviews wasted.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84