Easy, because the wicket was still playing well, the target was not big and all 10 Tigers wickets were intact. But that’s not true. Truth is, in a situation like this, the degree of difficulty on the side batting last increases by a big way. With the fall of each wicket or with the apprehension of a fall of a wicket the pressure of uncertainty keeps mounting on the batting team. It becomes more like climbing the slippery mountain you’ve never climbed before and not sure where you’ll end up.
Likewise, once the lead went past 175, everyone rightly presumed that the Lankans were in with a chance and the pressure was on us. Reason being, there were not many such successful chases on this ground in the past and Bangladesh’s track record clearly indicates lack of ability to raise their game in a pressure situation like this. And to add to that, the 80-run partnership of Suranga Lakmal and Dilruwan Perera gave the Lankans not only a defendable score but also the much needed confidence and momentum. They had reasons to believe that they had enough fire power, time and overs, to take 10 wickets.
“People who has heart condition, please stop watching Bangladesh's Test match for a while”, was one of the status on social media, and is probably an appropriate portrayal of the prevailing tensed environment among the fans.
And it was no different in the players' dressing room as well. The reaction we saw from our coach after the dismissal of Tamim Iqbal was a clear indication of the undeniable stress the whole team were in. Thankfully we crossed the line without much of a showdown. But why so much stress?
Part of the reason is purely because of the difference in the intensity of our first-class cricket and Test cricket. I don’t think one will disagree on the fact that still in most cases we are happy with drawn matches and some individual performances in the domestic first-class circuit. Other than a few exceptions there is hardly any evidence of teams throwing challenges to one another or taking risk for a win. Our exaggerated focus on personal records, hundreds or five-wicket hauls to catch everyone’s attention, probably ruins the real purpose of playing the game which is, “try to win and if failed, go for a draw”. But unfortunately, we don’t play to win and in the process, score centuries; it’s more like we play for centuries and in the process are happy with a win or whatever.
I think this mindset needs to be changed if we want to succeed consistently in Test cricket or even in other formats. Test cricket is all about “staying out of your comfort zone”, day after day. And you only learn the art of handling such stress from a competitive first-class playing experience. It teaches you to handle all the hardships Test cricket offers.
And the way the Tigers are playing now, it is possible that there will be many more stressful fifth days in the future that will decide the fate of our matches. Now it’s on us to inculcate the appropriate culture so that our first-class cricket produces cricketers of required aptitude who will bring more results in our favour. We need to change to make it happen.
Nazmul Abedeen Fahim is an Elite cricket coach.