Bangladesh news March 11, 2014

Mortaza in race to get fit for World T20

With very few decent replacements to choose from and plenty of questions about who can effectively use the new ball, Bangladesh will pin their hopes on Mashrafe Mortaza recovering from a side strain at the earliest

Mashrafe Mortaza is in a race against time to get fit ahead of Bangladesh's World T20 opener against Afghanistan on Sunday. He is recovering from a side strain sustained during the Asia Cup game against India two weeks ago.

With very few decent replacements to choose from and Bangladesh's attack already being rather one-dimensional, there will be a lot of hopes pinned on him recovering. Mortaza is not a great T20 bowler, in fact he has done poorly in the first six overs more often than not. But he provides inspiration: he is often injured but always comes across as giving his all; he is an intelligent presence among the bowlers, and a good sounding board for captain Mushfiqur Rahim.

Though Bangladesh's T20 bowling has been dismal in general, they put in an encouraging performance on their last T20 appearance, against Sri Lanka. Dew hampered the bowlers as they defended at total of 120 but Mortaza, as stand-in captain, led the attack ably, mixing up his bowlers to good effect. He gave every bowler one or two-over spells, ensuring none of the Sri Lanka batsmen settled against a particular bowler. Although Bangladesh lost off a last-ball boundary - it was also Mortaza's decision to ask Farhad Reza to bowl a bouncer on that delivery - it was the sort of game plan that looked effective for the bowling attack.

Whether Mushfiqur will take a similar approach is debatable, but he will be very happy should he have Mortaza's experience to fall back on against Afghanistan on March 16, in a match that is a potential banana-skin for the home side.

Mortaza's recovery is shaping up positively. Two days ago, he was reported to have been injected with cortisone to ease the pain. It did the job, and he underwent a fitness test on Tuesday, in front of Bangladesh's physio Vibhav Singh, who said he was improving every day. He has another fitness test in the next two days, and might also bowl a few overs in the warm-up game against UAE, in Fatullah on Wednesday.

"Today I am feeling better than before," Mortaza said on Tuesday. "I have bowled ten overs each in the last three days, in the nets. I have been feeling better than before. The pain is much less than the day I got hurt. I had a fitness test yesterday, where I bowled five overs. Today I bowled five overs at 80%."

However, should Mortaza not hit 100% in time, Bangladesh have trouble at the top of their bowling innings. Their biggest issue is that their overall best bowler, Shakib Al Hasan, is also their best bowler in the first six overs in T20s. He goes at 5.85 during these overs but because of his importance in the middle-overs, he has bowled less during the fielding restrictions than Mortaza and Abdur Razzak.

Mortaza has been Bangladesh's highest wicket-taker in Powerplay overs, but given his injury history and the resultant drop in pace, he could be in need of fielding protection even if he does play.

Al-Amin Hossain can be an option for Mushfiqur, having done well during the Powerplay overs in his only T20 international appearance. Though this is too small a sample size to label Al-Amin an early-overs specialist, he could be worth the risk as Rubel Hossain has taken two wickets and gone at 8.16 per over in seven innings bowled during the Powerplay. Offspinner Sohag Gazi could be another option, but then he has to bowl at a straighter line to both left-hand and right-hand batsmen, with very little margin to err in length too.

It is clear that the bowling form of Rubel, Razzak and Gazi will be vital in ensuring Shakib and Mortaza - should he play - get the best cover. Mahmudullah and Reza can come in handy, but they are Mushfiqur's second-choice attack. If they have to play without Mortaza, Shakib will have to be used prudently.

Of course, it would greatly help if one bowler stood up and grabbed a cluster of wickets. Mortaza feels that such a spark will be necessary at crucial moments during the World T20. "In the last five years, we haven't taken four or five-wicket hauls regularly," he said. "We have had to make do with combined performances.

"In an important moment, we need someone to click. We miss those performances. We have worked really hard in practice but for some reason it doesn't happen. It might be because of confidence or some other reason. I still believe that if we try hard, we will somehow go for it."

His situation is eerily similar to that in the lead-up to the 2011 World Cup. Then, he injured his knee in a league game a few weeks before the squad announcement deadline, and though he recovered somewhat, he was left out, much to his disappointment.

Recalling that setback, Mortaza said: "To be honest, it felt worse to miss the 2011 World Cup. It was the bigger tournament. But since the World T20s is being played in the backdrop of 200 million people's expectation, I want to play well, and give my 100%. I have my pride when I play for Bangladesh."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shah on March 14, 2014, 16:13 GMT

    @MeijiMura: you must have got the answer after this BD vs Ireland warm up match now & the best of associate Ireland which i also agree with you...but anyway BD's loss against Afg was a huge upset..& they need to overcome that in upcoming matches & get back to their real standard & potential which lacked in their last two series close games & ended as unsuccessful.....

    @Jimmy Andy: you should have been clear about what did you really mean by "BD will not even qualify for T20 WC , As on 16 Afghanistan will beat BD ...." :s

  • Dummy4 on March 14, 2014, 2:47 GMT

    Dont worry BD Fans , BD will not even qualify for T20 WC , As on 16 Afghanistan will beat BD ....

  • Justin on March 14, 2014, 1:03 GMT

    There is a lot of pressure on Bangladesh now. They've already lost to Afghanistan, they didn't win a game in the recent Asian Cup, they just scraped home against the UAE, a game they looked like they would lose until a last-gasp partnership saved them, and now they play Ireland - the best of the associates. Bangladesh need to lift their game in order to beat Ireland and if they want to beat Afghanistan otherwise they won't even qualify for the T20 World Cup as host - a hugely embarrassing outcome if it were to happen. Bangladesh have failed to deal with the pressure time and time again, will they finally rise to the occasion over the next week and beyond starting with today's high-pressure warm-up showdown against Ireland? It remains to be seen, but hopefully Bangladesh will start by treating Ireland, Afghanistan and others with the respect they deserve and they will be switched on from ball one. If they don't they will keep losing and Bangladesh cricket will plumb new depths.

  • Pr on March 13, 2014, 1:08 GMT

    After horroble performance of the team against uae minnows the team should be -tamim amamul mushi sakib sabbir zia nasir razzak al amin reza rubel.

  • Amir on March 12, 2014, 18:56 GMT

    MD. Isam said it right. The match against AFG is a potential banana peel for BD. If we don't win, our test status will be questioned by the ignorants. T20 is a crap shoot game. 2 overs or a wickets can change the complexion of the game. Any team can win from any position. However, our team needs to develop a strong mindset and learn not to get under pressure. Zia is an ideal T20 palyer who should be used higher up if we get a good start or lower if we need to stabilize first. Same is true for Shakib. We need to learn to change the order based on need. Go Tigers!

  • Shah on March 12, 2014, 18:14 GMT

    @Smart_animesh: You will care definitely & at the same time will eat your own words you must know miracles doesn't happen again & again..poor you soon!

  • Mehdi on March 12, 2014, 18:02 GMT

    I think it is time for selectors to analysis the performance of Mushfiq as a captain after T20 world cup. For some unknown reasons Mushfiq is always favoring Mahmudullah. Mushfiq was not the captain like before and his performance should verify after the t20 world cup. T20 world cup squad is a total messed up. Gazi, Razzak, Mahmudullah and Mominul are not a T20 player. IT will be difficult for BD to reach main event and it will be miracle if they win against big 8. Really pathetic team for T20 world cup. We need a brave captain. I do now know what is for BD cricket future. For god sake do not want to see a test team lost against associates. Against strong teams there are little chance with this average players or different type of players.

  • Animesh on March 12, 2014, 11:11 GMT

    Who cares?? BD will not even win against Afgans.. poor chaps...

  • Android on March 12, 2014, 10:45 GMT

    taskin will better idea to replace mortaza. The wonder boy has talent he can boy ball at power play or death overs also his back from injuries. on his cone beck match his figure 4-24-2 against zim maybe u should give him chance.

  • KH. RAFIQUE on March 12, 2014, 7:03 GMT

    Im really not getting that why Mahmudullah, Mominul and Farhad are in the squad?Mominul is a very goof find for us but he is not the T20 material.And regarding Maumudullah and Farhad what to say?Simply very good domestic players but would not be able to cope with the international pressure.For the evidence of my talk these 2 lads have been playing for at least 5 to 8 years but still couldn't fixed their position in the team.Ziaur Rahman would be always a better choice then those 2 at any point of the day specially when its T20.Definitely something is going wrong in the selectors mind.

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