Bangladesh ponder using Mashrafe up the order
Bangladesh are toying with the idea of sending Mashrafe Mortaza up the batting order in the upcoming T20s against Zimbabwe. The idea is a first, at least for Bangladesh, for thinking out of the box has not always been high on their agenda in a format where they have been a few steps behind the times.
It is understood that Mashrafe's floating batting position is still in the discussion stage, and will only be used as a surprise option. While Mashrafe has been batting regularly in the nets, the idea gained momentum when he struck an unbeaten 32-ball 56 for Comilla Victorians during the recently-concluded Bangladesh Premier League. Given the emphasis is clearly on experimentation ahead of the World T20, Zimbabwe can expect the unexpected.
Chandika Hathurusingha, the Bangladesh head coach, held his cards close to his chest, but is understood to be the man to have floated the idea. "Mashrafe has done good things for himself and he is telling me all the time that he can bat, so I asked him to prove it to me," he said. "He is doing well in the nets."
Mashrafe underlined the challenge of trying out the new role, but was open to moving up the order if the situation demanded it. "It is hard to start something new at this stage of my career," he told bdnews24.com. "It was a different story when my batting was at its best. It is hard to adapt now. But I am trying for the sake of the team. I am confident and the rest depends on how much I can do."
In the build up to World T20 campaigns in the past, Bangladesh have promoted and tried out players with reputations of being big-hitters. However, apart from the 2007 tournament, where they famously beat West Indies, Bangladesh have failed to make an impact in each of the other four editions. This time, the thought process has not really bordered on the outlandish. But keeping Mashrafe as a batting option is forward thinking given how the captain has inspired the team.
In any case, Bangladesh's 14-man squad for the Zimbabwe series has been training on specific areas for the last five days at the Sheikh Abu Naser Stadium in Khulna, in a bid to get the players used to the idea of playing T20s. Batsmen have been practicing their big-hitting skills, while the fielders have been made to work on the busy areas of the ground like the deep leg-side boundaries and the cover region.
Along with the front-line batsmen, who have spent plenty of time on the centre-wickets in front of the bowling machine, Mashrafe getting a sizable amount of time with the bat has intrigued fans and media alike. The inclusion of Nurul Hasan, Shuvagata Hom and Abu Hider further states their intent of bringing the big-hitting flavour to an otherwise industrious batting unit.
Mashrafe, who said that Bangladesh's experimentation was focused on the forthcoming Asia Cup T20s and World T20s, was open about using the matches against Zimbabwe as a trial run leading into the bigger battles. "All of those in the squad will be getting a chance," he said. "We will not try anything that will look odd. We are only thinking of doing things that will help us in the forthcoming tournaments. We have to try something different, test ourselves looking ahead.
"It is hard to deny that BPL didn't have an impact. But I think now they are hitting the ball well, especially in the nets in the last few days. It makes me positive. I think we can do well if they bat and bowl in this way. At the same time there's the pressure of international cricket so it is important to implement with cool heads."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84