When Bangladesh toured South Africa for the first time in 2002, they played their second Test at Potchefstroom. The wicket of the ground, then known as North West Cricket Stadium, favoured the batsmen during that time as well. For which, Bangladesh skipper Khaled Masud Pilot, did not hesitate to bat first after winning the toss. Hannan Sarkar and Al Shahriar cracked boundaries to post 52 runs in just 12 overs, but suddenly, Bangladesh’s immaturity showed up and on a very good batting strip, they lost by an innings and 160 runs.
For a country whose status as a Test nation was just two years old, just a dismal show can be forgiven. Each foreign tour was a big learning curve for them and after a long wait and a couple of false dawns, it seems, Bangladesh have started to learn the pros and cons of Test cricket. But, whenever you watch Mushfiqur Rahim’s captaincy and on-field decisions, as a cricket follower, you tend to lose faith in your belief, the Tigers have learned to play Test cricket.
Mushfiq has been very average as a captain on the first day of first Test against South Africa on the same ground where they ended up the ghost fifteen years ago.
Ten years of international cricket, but still Mushfiq is unable to read the track
Kagiso Rabada was asked about the nature of track at Potchefstroom yesterday, “Usually in franchise cricket, it’s a good wicket. It is good to bat and on and the outfield is extremely quick, right now I’m not too sure, we will have to see. There is still something in the wicket for the bowlers but they are good batting conditions. There is good bounce and pace, it will be interesting to see how this one plays”.
From Rabada’s statement, one can get the idea, the nature of Potchefstroom track has not changed over the years. The track is still batting friendly like 2002. Even if one looks at the track, he would clearly get an idea, it is a dry wicket with good bounce and still not the kind of bounce which one expects while playing in South Africa.
But to the astonishment of all, Mushfiqur Rahim, decided to field first on this wicket. This is not the first time, Mushfiq committed such a blunder, and in 2014, in the first Test against West Indies at Kingstown, the Bangladesh captain took the same decision on a perfect batting strip and watched his bowlers get punished by Chris Gayle and Kraigg Brathwaite. After three years, he committed the same mistake.
It’s pretty surprising to see, even after playing international cricket for more than a decade and captaining the side for six years in Test cricket, Mushfiq still has not acquired the ability to read the track.
I am not ready to buy the statement, “It was a team decision” as in cricket, the decision of a captain matters very much. Neither Mushfiq is colour blind nor a dumb to misread the pitch which looked good for batting even from Television.
Using four bowlers in first thirteen overs
In the first hour of play, tracks in Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa aid the new ball bowlers and obviously after committing a blunder at the toss, Mushfiq should have exhibited an aggressive intent on the field. But sadly, he was found as someone who was trying to save the game from the word go.
He engaged Mehidy Hasan Miraz’s offspin in the sixth over when the ball was still new. One logic might be, from the Senwes end, the wind was blowing against the direction Bangladesh doesn’t have any pacer to pitch it accurately by bowling against the breeze. Mehidy is an effective spinner with the new ball, but those works in Mirpur, Fatullah and Chittagong where the bounce aids him. In Potchefstroom, it would have been ideal to continue with a pacer. Mehidy proved ineffective as he misread the bounce and Mushfiq, was forced to move to the basics – two pacers from both ends.
Taskin Ahmed was brought in the thirteenth over and in a very short period of time, Mushfiq experimented with four bowlers to waste the new ball and allowed South Africa to settle easily.
The captain without a plan
The sun shone brightly and under the sun, Mushfiq stood like a captain, who seems to have no idea of what he was doing in the middle. The South African batsmen continued to score runs freely and Mushfiq persisted with a sort of field as if he was playing a Twenty20 or 50-over format.
The South African total still did not cross hundred, but already Mushfiq decided to engage just one slip against the pace bowlers and at one point, Taskin’s line of attack corrected from the leg stump to middle and off, but Mushfiq engaged a leg slip instead of guarding the second and third slip.
At backward point, someone like Sabbir Rahman should have been fielding, but why Mustafizur Rahman was used in that position remains a moot question. It resulted in a dropped catch when Aiden Markram attempted to drive a well-pitched up delivery from Taskin and flayed a mistimed drive which went to backward point but was dropped by Mustafiz.
One might think, Taskin pitching on the middle and leg to Elgar was an error in line, but if one notices closely, he would get an idea, Mushfiq’s field setting let Taskin adopt a middle and leg line as he attacked with a leg slip against Elgar. Elgar plays the flick well and perhaps such a thought led Mushfiq to attack with a leg slip, but when the ball is still new, such a ploy is a waste.
Every captain keeps a plan B under their disposal in five-day matches, but Mushfiq never seemed to have such. In my opinion, a Test captain’s plan A should be attack and B should be imagination. An attacking intent creates the platform for wickets while imagination helps to make things happen. Sadly, Mushfiq’s plan A and B were monotonously defensive captaincy. Bangladesh suffered badly.