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September 19, 2012
The World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka will be as much a test of Bangladesh's skills and preparation as a measure of their progress as an international side. They've been grouped with a team they crushed in ODIs two years ago, and the contest in Pallekele will be Bangladesh's first against New Zealand since that 4-0 result. The other, and more recent, source of confidence is their wins against India and Sri Lanka during this year's Asia Cup, when Bangladesh qualified for the final.
Even Bangladesh's poor record against their other Group D opponents should provide extra inspiration. They haven't beaten Pakistan in 13 years, though in their last two matches they showed the readiness to fight, especially in the Asia Cup final in March.
Bangladesh's performance in that tournament is now considered the marker by many, though expecting the players to take a step further in the World Twenty20, where one bad over or shot could see them knocked out of the group stages, might be asking too much. They're primarily focused on making it past the New Zealand game unscathed and hoping for a Super Eights berth. It is a realistic target for a team that played a quarter of all their Twenty20 internationals four months before the World Twenty20.
Shakib Al Hasan considers himself a leader in the team, and rightly so. He provides match-winning ability to a team that needs it, despite the presence of other talented players. Shakib's batting and bowling averages are substantially better in Bangladesh wins in the past six years, a measure of his contribution to the team's cause. He will be playing with a dodgy knee and will bat at No 3. The bowling attack will also revolve around his left-arm spin.
In Ziaur Rahman, Bangladesh finally have an end-over hitter who can clear his right leg and swing powerfully. After an awkward teething period in Zimbabwe, Rahman hit eleven sixes during the build-up tours and broadened his range from just midwicket. He can use his feet against the spinners but high pace will test him: when he encountered such bowling against South Africa in June, Rahman settled for boundaries and the odd nudge. A fast-bowling talent cut short due to injury, Rahman reinvented himself as the sort of a shock-value player Bangladesh has lacked since Mohammad Rafique's heyday.
Spin will test the Bangladesh batsmen, especially Pakistan's offspinners. They tend to play out overs, which is a flawed strategy in a Twenty20 game. Also, they can be inflexible when things don't go according to plan. A recent example of this was the middle-order collapses after Shakib's dismissal during the two practice games in Sri Lanka.
World T20 history
A surprise win over West Indies took them to the Super Eights in 2007, but they failed to make it past the group stages in 2009 and 2010.
Bangladesh have won four games out of six in 2012, results that include the 3-0 series win over Ireland in July. That performance took Bangladesh all the way up to No. 4 in the Twenty20 rankings but they returned to ninth three days later, after an unflattering start to their series in the Netherlands, where they won once and lost twice. One of those defeats was against Scotland. During an off-season dedicated to Twenty20, Bangladesh also won unofficial matches against South Africa, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Barbados on either side of the Europe tour.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in BangladeshFeeds: Mohammad Isam
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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