It was a weary bunch of Bangladesh cricketers who journeyed to Colombo by bus on Saturday evening hours after a chastening 259-run defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka in the first Test in Galle. Even if not their spirits, their collective stamina would have been sapped by their four-and-a-half-day exertion under the draining Galle sun, which travelled with them undimmed to Colombo. So it was no surprise that at noon yesterday, it was the six members of the squad not on the playing eleven who underwent a full training session at the P Sara Oval, the venue for Bangladesh's 100th Test starting on March 15.
The six players -- Rubel Hossain, Kamrul Islam Rabbi, Taijul Islam, Mosaddek Hossain, Sabbir Rahman and newly fit and recently arrived opener Imrul Kayes -- may not be smarting from the scars of the fifth-day collapse in Galle, but head coach Chandika Hathurusingha was in attendance, and he identified the way Bangladesh start their days after having batted comfortably the previous evening as a problem the coaching staff are trying to solve.
“I can't find any evidence that the confusion carried through but it is a concern,” Hathurusingha said when asked whether Soumya's confusion in requesting a review after being bowled on the fifth morning had a lasting effect. “We started poorly on the second day, but I don't want to only blame Soumya. Our focus has been very poor at the start of the day, lately. We need to find out why -- the players and coaching staff are working hard on it.
“When you say defending and attacking, it comes down to decision making,” Hathuru replied when his attention was drawn to Shakib Al Hasan saying on the fourth evening that there needs to be a balance between attack and defence. “It is what we need to improve -- which ball to attack, which ball to defend. Whether you want to go either way, you have to make good decisions. To make decisions, you need to assess the condition, the opposition's game plan and have the awareness. You can't say, you go and attack and that's my game.”
Another theme in the Test was the leg-side dismissals of Shakib in the first innings and Mushfiqur Rahim in the second, both chasing deliveries bowled by chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan down the leg side to get an edge through to the keeper. Mushfiqur said after the match that those were scoring opportunities and they were right to go for those. The coach agreed, but added another dimension.
“Those two dismissals have a lot to do with reading the spin from the pitch. If you read it from the hand, you get into better positions,” the Sri Lankan said. “This guy [Sandakan] was bowling variations -- wrong'uns and chinamans. I think our guys read the ball from the pitch, which gives them very little reaction time. I agree with Mushfiqur -- it is your natural reaction to score runs when it is on leg-stump.”
Hathurusingha was also concerned about the bowlers' inexperience. “Take Shakib out of the bowling attack -- and Shakib is not the same bowler from 2010 who used to run through teams in helpful conditions -- the other four bowlers have combined for just 15 Tests. You have to set up the batsmen to take wickets, so that intelligence comes with playing in the middle.
He also said resting Taijul was the right thing to do because the three pacers gave them control and because Taijul bowls differently with the Kookaburra ball used in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka than when he uses the SG ball that brought him success in India, while also saying that the team may change according to the conditions for the next match.
“We are doing the right thing; that's why we have been competitive in all these games. The problem is we need to find a way to take 20 wickets,” Hathuru said, and finished with this: “Why have you raised your expectations? Because we are doing well, am I right? That's what we all expect, and we are asking too much of a team that is still finding their team in Test cricket. It is a fact.”