The World T20 kicks off in October this year and Teams all over the world have already started sorting out their plans and as part of the preparations, will shortly delve into a frenzy of T20Is before the showpiece event in Australia. Bangladesh also have a lot on their plate, as they will play at least 12 matches in the shortest format.
However, for the Tigers, things are not all bright and shiny as they are finding it hard to shrug-off the wobbly form in the format. The latest series against Pakistan was one bleak example of that.
Stats do not lie
Bangladesh have won only eight out of their last 20 T20Is and they have won only four matches away from home. The 12 defeats include a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Afghanistan in 2018.
Bangladesh in this period have used 26 players and only current skipper Mahmudullah Riyad and Liton Das have appeared in all of the 20 matches.
Flaws in the batting order was widely exposed in Pakistan as nobody except Tamim Iqbal was consistent.
Bangladesh's problems varied from timid batting and bowling to their planning, as both the matches, saw five openers in the starting line-up.
The players who had to play down the order could not perform well and former Game Development Manager of the Bangladesh Cricket Board, Nazmul Abedin Fahim thinks that it was because of their altered batting positions.
"It (twisting the batting order) obviously had an effect. The different positions have different demands. When you play a top-order batsman lower down the order, it is difficult for him to adjust. A batsman's mindset is habituated with his natural batting position. So when you field a batting order full of openers, it becomes challenging for them," Fahim said.
Tamim himself was criticized for his low strike rate during Pakistan series but former Bangladesh opener Mehrab Hossain Aupi believes that it was all part of the team's strategy.
"Tamim playing at a low strike rate was part of the game plan. He was instructed to hold his end. What went wrong was, there was no big hitting from the other side. But, in matches plans can backfire" Mehrab stated.
Mehrab added that though Bangladesh do not possess natural big-hitters, but the Tiger batsmen are quite capable.
"We do not have either Russell or Pandya so we have to think with the ones we have in our hands. The batsmen in our team have the capability. I think they need a bit of time. With time we can come over the absence of a big-hitting all-rounder in the lower middle order," he said.
One dimensional bowling
Bangladesh also, have concerns in the bowling department as their bowlers are not picking up wickets and cannot keep a low economy rate. Team's ace pacer Mustafizur Rahman has managed to pick up 21 wickets in his last 17 games but his economy rate is above nine. None of the other bowlers amongst the current lot have featured in more than seven matches.
Fahim believes that Bangladesh lacks bowlers who are tailor-made for a T20 setup as the format requires a special set of skills.
"T20s require a different crop of bowlers, who are tactically strong, skillful, read the batsmen well, have variations and are accurate at executing. Surely we lack a bowler like that. This is because the same group of players plays in all the formats. We have to think about specialization gradually. We have to prepare those who are doing well in T20s in the domestic arena and try to use them to cover our lackings," he implied.
The long list of Bangladeshi 'youngsters' include players like Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar, Mosaddek Hossain, Afif Hossain, Aminul Islam Biplob and Saifuddin. Among them, only Afif and Biplob have debuted after 2018.
Despite playing for a long time, they have been in and out of form. Fahim expressed his grief talking about the inconsistency of the young players and added that in the recently ended Pakistan tour, the players were nowhere near the level they showed in the Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).
"It is very sad that we have to talk about that (their inconsistency) despite them being so talented. Taking the difference between the BPL and international arena in an account, their brand of cricket here and in Pakistan has been very different. The approach and mentality – everything was different. They were not desperate or aggressive enough for T20s" opined Fahim.
He also went on to add that the foreign coaches assessed the players to be at a level below their standards which ended up affecting the team's strategy.
"I think when a new set of coaches come, they want to asses every player their own way. We undermine our players by limiting their abilities. I think our players are better than what the foreign coaches perceive them to be. But as they have an assumption, they keep the players confined to their strategy" added Fahim.
Nevertheless, Bangladesh have nine months to get their act together. They would hope to get their specialized T20 players ready for the global event in Australia. The upcoming series against Zimbabwe can be a good testing ground, both for the players and also the team to see whether they can deliver.