In the space of 36 hours, Bangladesh's inadequacy as a Test team has been exposed. Their experienced batsmen have no one to blame for not being able to handle consistent fast bowlers, and their bowlers have nowhere to hide their lack of quality.
The poor quality of Bangladesh's domestic cricket and a disproportionate focus on the shorter formats are mere excuses or, at best, long-standing problems that are unlikely to be addressed any time soon. Bangladesh have defeated higher-ranked teams despite the BCB's policies, system and infrastructure. So the Antigua debacle cannot, at least for now, be viewed from any other angle other than the players' inadequacies. It is what it is.
Discomfort against bouncers has been one reason touted for Bangladesh's difficulties in the West Indies, but their batsmen didn't just struggle against the short ball in Antigua - Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel used it only sparingly - but also pace and lateral movement. Senior batsmen were dismissed in similar manner in both innings, in the space of two days, which meant they either didn't learn from their first-innings mistakes or just stuck to their own ways. Sparring outside off stump began to look like a sign of unwillingness to adjust rather than any major technical issue.
Tamim Iqbal's first-innings dismissal didn't seem like a forecast of the devastation waiting to happen. Roach produced a great delivery, angling in from round the wicket and nipping away after pitching, leaving Tamim little option but to nick. But his second-innings dismissal was avoidable, Tamim committing to a shot and dangling his bat at Gabriel's full delivery after being drawn into playing slightly wider deliveries earlier in the over.
Mominul Haque, who swiftly followed Tamim in both innings, could be given the benefit of doubt for missing one that kept low in the second innings. But against Roach in the first innings, he was guilty of driving well away from his body.
Mushfiqur Rahim was out in almost identical fashion to similar deliveries in both innings. Roach and Gabriel slanted in sharp inwingers, and Mushfiqur didn't bring his bat down quickly enough. He left a big gap between bat and pad in the second innings, and against Roach in the first dig had his bat still behind his pads when the ball arrived. He was playing for inswing, but didn't seem to expect quite so much of it.
Shakib Al Hasan also fell in identical manner in both innings, edging deliveries seaming away from off stump. He could possibly have left them, particularly with his side in a perilous state both times.
Shakib, at least, was out trying to defend. Liton Das, on the other hand, began slogging - and not just playing attacking cricket shots - when he saw wickets tumbling at the other end. His patience in the second innings only lasted six overs or so, which is no amount of patience at all, before Jason Holder smartly bowled one wider outside off stump and drew a fatal poke.
"Somehow, cricketers, coaches, experts and administrators never seem to get around to fixing the long-term issues behind Bangladesh's failures on sporting pitches. They get too distracted. After this tour, for instance, they will quickly shift focus to preparing for one-dayers in the Asia Cup, and then a long home winter in which they will play on spin-friendly tracks, thus going back to square one."
It's not that Bangladesh don't know what to do against good fast bowlers on a responsive pitch, and if they didn't, West Indies lasting 137.3 overs should have driven home the point. It's just that their batsmen fall back too easily on playing their "natural game".
Many of Bangladesh's best cricketers have banked their careers on their natural game, expressing themselves, and generally sticking to their own plans. They have found success when they have ventured out of their comfort zones, but those occasions have been rare.
If the conditions were loaded against the batsmen, the fast bowlers had a much easier task. And yet, they didn't seem to understand what was required of them. Rubel Hossain, Kamrul Islam Rabbi and Abu Jayed shared four wickets in a combined 63.3 overs, or a wicket every 16 overs, which is really not good enough in a first-class game, let alone a Test match.
Picking Rubel for the umpteenth time shows that the selectors, team management and captain have zero belief in Bangladesh's pace-bowling reserves, and that they are unwilling to show the imagination or willingness to take a risk with newcomers like Yeasin Arafat or Shoriful Islam. Perhaps this one is down to chief selector Minhajul Abedin who has shown an unwillingness to veer away from the tried and tested. Shafiul Islam is in the Test squad once again, having done little in the last two years to merit it.
With both the senior, experienced batsmen and the pace bowlers - who were expected to bear the bulk of the workload in the two departments on this overseas tour - failing in their basics, Bangladesh have slipped to a pretty much irredeemable situation in Antigua.
Somehow, cricketers, coaches, experts and administrators never seem to get around to fixing the long-term issues behind Bangladesh's failures on sporting pitches. They get too distracted. After this tour, for instance, they will quickly shift focus to preparing for one-dayers in the Asia Cup, and then a long home winter in which they will play on spin-friendly tracks, thus going back to square one.
For now, in the Caribbean, Bangladesh will have to find some short-term solutions to their batting and fast-bowling issues, and find a way to attain some level of competitiveness in the second Test in Jamaica.