Nasir shines with ball, but team wants more with bat
Nasir Hossain's renewed confidence has coincided with the need for another calm head in the Bangladesh team. Nasir now has a matured role in which he oversees the batting in the finishing stages, bowls in critical times, and always fields wherever the captain requires the best protection.
Nasir took 2 for 33 in the second ODI in Mirpur, picking up the key wickets of Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli. It was his best performance since returning to the side for the World Cup after being dropped due to poor form for the entire Zimbabwe series last year.
Despite not being in his comfort zone for close to four months, Nasir lost little of his verve when engaging with his teammates. He is still the prankster, visible when he was seen squirting water all over his teammates after they clinched the ODI series against India on Sunday night.
Nasir looked slightly reserved the next morning, when he was met by a group of journalists. He was fasting, and wanted to get away from the pack quickly. He joked and spoke but not too much. A bit of his on-field economy was being visualised in his off-field persona.
On Sunday, he first broke the dangerous second-wicket partnership between Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli in the 13th over by having Kohli trapped in front of the stumps. His accurate offspin kept India's run-rate on a tight leash for the next few overs before, in the 21st over, he beat Dhawan in the flight and took his edge that was nicely held by wicketkeeper Litton Das.
His first spell went for 25 in seven overs but he was brought back in the 30th over to finish his quota of 10 overs for only the second time in his ODI career. He gave away only eight more runs against two of India's best batsmen of spin - MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina.
His sole bowling target is to keep the runs down with an action that constitutes a few short steps, a wind-up and delivery. He did a similar job in the first ODI against India, and has helped the bowling attack which lacks the economical second spinner.
After returning to the Bangladesh side this year, he has nearly eight wickets, nearly tripling his haul from 2011 to 2014. Mashrafe has given him the ball regularly, who planned to use Nasir in particular, against India.
"Actually before the India series I saw a statistic that in the last year they have been weak against offspinners," Mashrafe said. "They have given most of their wicket to offspinners. So from that aspect, I think Nasir is one of the best offspinners for Bangladesh in ODIs. I had only one offspinner in my hand and I wanted to use him."
Mashrafe said that contributing with the ball has helped Nasir build his confidence as a batsman too.
"Form is temporary. It can go up and down but I always told him that if he can bowl ten overs, it will be very useful for us. I always prefer him, as a result. He is a top-class bowler.
"Even in the World Cup he bowled well and I like that he believes that he can bowl 10 overs. At this moment I believe that he is doing well with the bat. In the last match he came down the track and hit a six. That is good intent," Mashrafe said.
But since his recall, he has batted in only four innings out of the eight matches, facing a total of 69 deliveries. But he has ensured that his modus operandi of batting at a high strike-rate remained his forte since his return. He has a 100-plus strike-rate every time he has batted for Bangladesh this year.
Nasir's form tapered off in 2014 after he had a fruitful first three seasons in international cricket. He averaged just 20.45 with the bat in 13 matches, compared to his averages of 36, 34 and 64 in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Sabbir Rahman, with whom he has played most of his first-class cricket, replaced him in the Bangladesh lower-middle order and showed his capability. Sabbir now bats at No 6, above Nasir, which in a way is helping Nasir mould his place in a Bangladesh line-up that is prone to using seven batsmen in ODIs.
His axe during the Zimbabwe series served as an important lesson for him. He led Abahani in the Dhaka Premier League through the 2014-15 season, which not only brought back some of his confidence but also helped him bowl more as the club regularly used him for a full spell.
Recently, Bangladesh have not needed their No. 7 to launch a rescue operation very often, which has limited Nasir's batting role to giving a final flourish or shepherding a chase to the target. Till he gets a long innings under his belt, his role will be to play as a percentage player.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84