A debacle that started behind the scenes

The majority of the spectators who turned up to watch the third day of the second Test between Bangladesh and the visiting Sri Lanka yesterday were school students who were allowed free entry to the venue. Unfortunately, what could have been a day for the children — perhaps there was a future cricketer among them — to be au fait with the beauty of Test cricket, turned into a day of watching its ugly side because of their beloved cricketers’ bewildering batting display at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur.

It was interesting to find them celebrating the successes of Sri Lanka’s bowlers after being disillusioned with the utterly mindless batting of the Bangladesh top orders; perhaps even they could understand that a rudder-less ship cannot reach any destination.

The youngsters went home with a diminished impression of their cricketing heroes because what they saw with their own eyes was that the players could not show any character while suffering a 215-run defeat. One cannot blame any of them if they struggle to come up with any other reason behind the debacles, not just in the second Test but also in the tri-series against the same opponents last month. But those who are older and more accountable must look into it. While it is true that it is the player who has to perform in the middle and they have to take responsibility, but in modern-day cricket it is not all about the cricketers; the process and the people who run the show behind the scenes are as important.

The players will come in for harsh criticism after such a poor showing and many may quibble over their claims that they are capable — and the players would deserve such censure — and even a board high-up can join that party, but before doing that they have to ensure some soul-searching.

The Bangladesh Cricket Board’s high-ups should understand that meddling with a settled selection procedure not only upset a good system but also created chaos that not only indirectly led to the premature departure of the country’s most successful coach but also saw some madness in team selection in the ongoing series against Sri Lanka. If we consider the selections of Abdur Razzak and Sabbir Rahman we will find that there was no clarity of thought within the Bangladesh think tank.

The latest explanation regarding Sabbir’s inclusion from stand-in skipper Mahmudullah Riyad during the post-match press conference will only enhance the notion of a team without a coherent plan and with nothing to execute in the middle. Mahmudullah explained that Sabbir was good against spin and in executing sweeps and reverse sweeps, as well as the previously mentioned belief that he is as good as a slip fielder and a quick run-scorer.

If we look at the contrasting batting approaches of the Bangladesh batsmen in the two innings we cannot be sure whether there was any particular plan in the dressing room. When a team was gripped by panic and failed to recover from the hiccup of a defeat, there should be a serious concern about the existence of any team management.

The BCB high-ups should understand that terming the senior players as the coach was fine as a sentimental statement, but not when it comes to delivering the desired results. We will now talk about and raise fingers towards an inept team management and a puppet selection panel, but it would be highly counterproductive and suicidal not to focus on who appointed them and created this environment. A poor system or process not only creates a puppet selection panel but can also bring huge danger for the country’s cricket.

The current home disaster seems a continuation of the debacle of the tour of South Africa in September-October last year. The question is whether the board had properly re-examined the reasons behind the forlorn performance in South Africa or instead adopted the escapist and oft-repeated mantra of ‘not only Bangladesh, but also other big teams also struggled in South African conditions’.

If you have faith in the players’ abilities then you must find out the missing link that is integral to a team taking the next step and if not, the problem runs deeper. It is also dangerous if a team looks so hapless in the absence of any one player. In all cases the board are responsible for taking the initiative, even if it means changing their mindset.

Bangladesh will win many matches in the future and bring the joy back among the fans, but the tri-series and Test defeats against Sri Lanka at home will certainly hurt for a fairly long time. The only remedy is what that which has so far been absent: an honest, diligent effort from the high-ups to unearth the real issues and put in place measures geared solely towards the betterment of the team.