Bangladesh have buried the ghost of Chittagong in style
Bangladesh claimed their first ever Test victory against England in Mirpur.
In the last decade, the Tigers were involved in some of Test cricket’s most nail-biting encounters with the big boys of world cricket. Pakistan were given a run for their money at Multan in 2003, Australia were given a scare at Fatullah in 2006 and at Chittagong in 2008, Daniel Vettori's New Zealand were in the mud. But, in all those nerve-wracking contests, the Tigers tasted a bitter experience which dented their self-confidence big time.
Doubts regarding Bangladesh’s mental strength
They failed to bounce back and essay the same sort of fight in the following Test matches.
Bangladesh experienced another heartbreak at Chittagong in 2016. It was the first Test of the two-match Test series between England and Bangladesh, and from the word go, the home team had the visitors in a stranglehold. The Test match went down to the wire like Multan and Fatullah, but at the end of the day, there was no change to the script – the Tigers were left stunned and heartbroken. The story of heartaches revisited and, it seemed, it would affect the morale of the team badly.
Thankfully, Chandika Hathurusingha is the coach of the team and he is one of those characters who studies the game very well and is well aware of how to handle his boys when such defeats pose a threat to the self-belief of the team. Chandika is like a father to his boys and never lets negative thoughts enter into their hearts. He sings positive songs and boosts the morale of his boys and prepares them for the next challenge.
The Tigers moved on and organized themselves for the next Test at Mirpur.
There were doubts that Bangladesh might not recover from the trauma at Chittagong and thus, they might fail to maintain their vim and dish out below-par performances in the second Test.
There were obvious signs of mediocrity at Mirpur – a terrible collapse in the first innings where nine wickets fell for just 49 runs, Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid’s stubborn resistance for the ninth wicket aided by some ordinary captaincy from Mushfiq, Mahmudullah’s madness at the fag end of day 2 and Mushfiq’s lack of bite in captaincy yet again when England were going all guns blazing in the fourth innings – hinted of another cliff-hanger, but a frustrating defeat for Bangladesh.
Mehedi steps up
The complexion of the game changed after Tea on day 3. Mushfiq decided to attack and engaged his go-to-man in this series, Mehedi Hasan Miraz. Normally, Mushfiq is known to go on the backfoot when the opposition batsmen fetch runs fluently, but it was a different Mushfiq after Tea who wanted to break the partnership and fetch more wickets to put England under pressure.
Miraz struck gold with his first ball. All of a sudden, Bangladesh rediscovered their killer instinct.
There is a school of thought that during the break, Chandika expressed his anger towards the captain and other members of the team. He was annoyed with the lackluster attitude of the Tigers on the field and implored his men to show more character. Perhaps it worked as a tonic for Mushfiq and others.
Mushfiq started to attack and used Miraz and Shakib Al Hasan more. He surrounded the batsmen with close fielders who were like vultures, always waiting to bag a catch and a mayhem took place at Mirpur in the afternoon which created history as Bangladesh leveled the series by beating England.
Neither did Bangladesh lose their self-belief nor did they snatch another defeat from the jaws of victory. Instead, they bounced back from the terrible experience of Chittagong to outclass one of the top teams in Test cricket, England.
The ghost of Chittagong didn’t haunt the Tigers but instead they buried it in style at Mirpur.
This victory means a lot for Bangladesh cricket. For more than a decade, the Test status of Bangladesh has always been questioned. Pathetic performances with astonishing regularity only earned shame and the light at the end of the tunnel was hardly visible. Test victories came only against Zimbabwe and a second-string West Indies team, while against the big boys, Bangladesh were a disgrace.
Finally, Bangladesh have broken the hoodoo. Like the limited-overs team, the Test team of Bangladesh have exhibited the intent and hunger to win matches.
The Bangladesh Test team is not without flaws and this victory must not hide those. Still, there are areas, for example - shot selection, improving the batting technique against reverse swing, exhibiting composure during the critical passage of play, organizing the bowling attack with more emphasis on pace bowlers and a bit more dynamism in captaincy when the opposition is taking the upper hand - where Bangladesh need to improve a lot.
With Chandika around, it should not take long before Bangladesh find themselves mixing it with the big boys.