The Financial Express

Bangladesh’s wicket-keeping dilemma

| Updated: June 18, 2021 22:03:56

Bangladesh’s wicket-keeping dilemma

Tamim Iqbal throws the ball from mid-on. Mushfiqur Rahim gathers the ball and breaks the stumps; visibly, Kane Williamson fell short of the crease. The crowd went mad. The whole country started roaring. Little did they know was coming. What followed was no short of a tragedy in Bangladesh’s cricketing history. 

As the third umpire began playing the replay, the sky broke down onto the Tiger fans. A scene, a horrendous mistake they witnessed which at least from a fan's point of view is unthinkable, intolerable and most definitely unacceptable. 

Scenes from Edgbaston against New Zealand in the CWC 2019 still keeps haunting all the fans and certainly the cricketers because perhaps this one moment of callousness from the then no.1 choice wicketkeeper of Bangladesh national team became the difference of which was supposed to be a memorable world cup to a devastating one. 

Fast forward a year and a half, on February 2021, the same horrendous scene returned-- only this time in a different venue, different format and different coloured ball. Nkrumah Bonner and Kyle Mayers, the heroes of the 1st test of that series faced at least three occasions where they could've taken that painful walk to the dressing room.

There were large appeals of lbws which the umpire denied. But that is not the part where fans got frustrated. Bangladesh had reviews remaining and they still didn’t use them because the keeper, this time Liton Das, said ‘NO.’ The rest is the story of a memorable comeback for the windies. 

The aforementioned two scenarios are two of such examples which have become a regularity in Bangladesh cricket, these two being the most memorable ones in recent times. The last ODI series against New Zealand and the last test series against Sri Lanka also saw the mediocrities of Mushfiqur Rahim and Liton Das respectively with their keeping gloves.

And among the continuous shouts of changing the keeper, management is now really falling short of options. Mushfiq's poor keeping is nothing new. Time and time again, he has been doing these mistakes costing Bangladesh some crucial momentums and the match eventually. And what is more pathetic is that there is no sign of improvement.

For instance, Mushfiq is still seen standing in front of the wickets to collect the ball whenever a throw comes to him. However much he claims that he feels comfortable standing behind the stumps, his mistakes are often costing the team big time.

Considering these factors, the Bangladesh team approached an alternative way especially in the test crickets where Mushfiqur plays as a genuine batsman and the gloves were handed over to Liton Kumar Das as he's considered to be better in this regard. And maybe, little a lie is there due to his better reflexes, agility and athleticism. 

However, wicketkeepers nowadays have to carry on an added responsibility which is to take the review properly as they are the ones having the most straighter angles to the batsmen. Also, standing motionless helps them make a better judgement, something in which Liton seemed to fail miserably. This inability to pounce on has proven to be a game-changer several times, something in which Mushfiqur is way ahead.

So, it all comes down to this- Liton is a better keeper in terms of keeping but Mushfiq is ahead in terms of game reading. Also, it can easily be noticed that Liton is a brilliant outfielder whether in slips, gully, covers or square legs, probably one of the best in the country. Mushfiqur in this case stands in a different pole being one of the worst outfielders, if not the worst. As a result, giving Mushfiq the gloves means we have a better outfield unit, but then again Mushfiq with the gloves is not being that much impressive either.

Considering all these points, you might want to choose neither and go for option ‘C,’ a popular choice like Nurul Hasan Shohan-- considered to be the best in the business among the lot and definitely the best we have. But his batting ability is questioned frequently.

Bangladesh not being world-class by any mean,s and most of the times, a mere one-man show in the batting recently, can't afford to have someone just for keeping-- a privilege that countries like India have with Wriddhiman Saha. So, considering Sohan for keeping might not be the most obvious decision.

Another popular choice is our under-19 superhero Akbar Ali who has shown excellent skills behind the stumps and impressive composure with the bat. But all of those were in age levels. The international arena is always a different ball game.

Previously, we had success giving the under-19 stars a huge jump to the national team. But most of them only succeeded for short terms, bursting into the arena and then blazing away. Hence, bringing him in right now would not be a good decision either.

Who then? Well, that’s a question which seems to have no answer as of now to our team management. Apparently, the wicket-keeping dilemma will keep haunting the team, who knows how long. But it is pretty much visible that the issue getting worse by the day and needs an urgent solution.

Ahnaf Wazed khan has completed his HSC from Dhaka Residential Model College

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