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Bangladesh and the art of finishing

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Bangladesh_cricket_team_problems7 for 62, 6 for 70, 6 for 67 and 6 for 17. Sadly, these splendid numbers are not any player’s bowling figures. These figures represent the horrible batting collapse of Bangladesh in their first ODI match against England and three ODIs against Afghanistan.

When something goes wrong the first time, it can be a mistake. However, if it happens time and again, it’s not a mistake anymore. It’s a flaw. And Bangladesh is undoing all their hard work and talent with their one major flaw– the inability to finish.

It is hard to think of anything in cricket more humiliating than losing a match the way Bangladesh lost to England in the first ODI at Mirpur. It appears, at times, like they have made a habit of losing matches they should have won with ease. The trend began in the World T20 earlier this year, when Bangladesh lost by just a solitary run to India. It almost took over the series against Afghanistan, but they managed to clinch the series 2-1, for which credit should be given to the bowlers. And it is in the spotlight once again due to the disappointing manner in which they lost the first ODI against England from a position of command.

 

Gone are those days when scoring 40 runs in the last ten overs sounded like an uphill task. It’s the era of the glitzy, fast paced and flamboyant T20 cricket where a run-rate of 4 runs per over is a cake-walk. However, it seems that Bangladesh hasn’t quite learned it yet.

An international cricketer shouldn’t need to do much when the scoreboard reads ’39 runs required off 52 balls.’ All that’s needed is to pick up regular singles and pounce on bad deliveries for the occasional boundary. However, Shakib-Al-Hasan, one of Bangladesh’s most experienced players, decided to continue his boundary hitting spree rather than play sensibly by picking up singles. Imrul Kayes, who had been batting there for three long hours and had developed cramps, may not have had a choice other than this approach. Shakib and Kayes could have opted to play out a few dot balls, especially when they required a paltry 4 runs per over. However, they chose poorly, and that led to Bangladesh’s downfall.

Both of them departed and Bangladesh’s inexperienced lower order started collapsing rapidly. Bangladesh’s world turned upside down in a matter of minutes. Everyone in their dressing room looked shocked and clueless as to what went wrong. The noisy fans had gone silent. Some even started leaving. For they knew what was coming next; they had seen it happen before and didn’t want to watch their team getting humiliated again. In a space of 6.3 overs and 17 runs, six wickets fell and Bangladesh, fans, players, everyone, had to bear the pain of another narrow, easily avoidable defeat.

 

Six months ago, Bangladesh had made a promise to come back strong after the heart-breaking defeat in the World T20 to India. But they have only dipped further, risking what could have been a series defeat to minnows Afghanistan and ultimately falling against England.

A year back, Bangladesh had a sky-high self-belief as a team. They had created history by reaching the quarter finals in the 2015 World Cup and had defeated India and South Africa in consecutive ODI series at home. They were becoming a force to be reckoned with in the limited overs format. However, coming back to today, Bangladesh are tragically returning to the position they were in before World Cup 2015.

It is not that Bangladesh doesn’t have good players. The problem is their players’ inexperience, temperament, lack of vision and inability to hold on to nervous situations. The experience that Bangladesh boasts of in Shakib-Al-Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mashrafe Mortaza is invaluable. But they also need to act experienced to influence the younger lot and make them comfortable in the team. They have to instill in them the confidence of performing well and the confidence to achieve anything that they desire.

With the kind of talent in the likes of Mustafizur Rahman, Mosaddek Hossain and other young players, Bangladesh has the ammunitions but need an experienced head to guide them. It is time for players like Shakib, Mortaza, Rahim and Mahamudullah to step up and play responsibly. Enough mistakes. If the experienced players cannot perform under pressure, that directly affects the performances of the younger players. They have to lead by example both on and off the field.

Although Bangladesh still has a long way to go to become a force in the Test cricket, they can certainly become a threat to any title when it comes to the limited overs game. At least time is on their side and they will no doubt strive to become a better side by the 2019 World Cup. Till then, they need to sort out their problem with the finishing touches that looks like the only major hurdle on their path to success.

 

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Prasenjit, a techie by profession and Sports writer by passion, hails from the 'City of Joy'-Kolkat...

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