Bangladesh's loss to Sri Lanka in their last Asia Cup game was their seventh consecutive ODI defeat. Given their impressive form in the home series against New Zealand, this slump is a drastic downturn in form. Worryingly for Bangladesh there has been a massive drop in confidence among the players.
The last time they suffered this long a losing streak was between March and August 2011, beginning from their last World Cup game. After being bowled out for 78 against South Africa, Bangladesh were crushed 0-3 by Australia and then Zimbabwe took a 3-0 lead in a five-match series. This time they lost 3-0 to Sri Lanka and were blanked in all four Asia Cup matches.
Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim did not consider this the worst phase of his career. Instead, he lauded his team for bouncing back from the defeat against Afghanistan, even though they lost the following games narrowly to Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
"As per the results, we are not doing well and not playing up to our strength," Mushfiqur said. "We have played well in the [last] two matches. Hats off to boys for the way we have come back after the debacle against Afghanistan. There were ifs and buts. It is not an excuse but we have put on an improved show. As a team we have more capability. In the series against Sri Lanka, we could have won the first match. We have been unlucky in some aspects."
Between the end of the last slump to the start of this one, Bangladesh had developed faster in one-day cricket than in Tests and Twenty20s. Mushfiqur was made captain two games into this period, and won 10 out of 24 matches. His highlights included a place in the 2012 Asia Cup final, bilateral series wins over West Indies and New Zealand, and a 1-1 draw in Sri Lanka.
Bangladesh have also suffered crippling injuries in the last 17 days. Already without Tamim Iqbal, they used 17 players in seven ODIs, and had Shakib Al Hasan for just four games due to a suspension. Nasir Hossain and Shamsur Rahman losing form did not help, neither did the bowlers and fielders struggling.
Nasir and Tamim were Bangladesh's top batsmen during their successful period. Over that time, the average of bowlers who had taken more than 20 wickets was between 24 and 30. During this slump, only Arafat Sunny averages less than 35 for his six wickets.
During the previous poor run too, Tamim batted at an average of 22.14, which affected the team's balance at the top of the order. Shamsur's batting form has also dipped and despite Anamul Haque batting well, it has still not worked for Bangladesh.
Their biggest difficulty has been coordinating the three disciplines. When Bangladesh bowled well, their batsmen failed. Similarly, when the batsmen scored Bangladesh's highest ODI total, against Pakistan in the Asia Cup, the bowlers were poor.
After Bangladesh had reduced Sri Lanka to 8 for 3 in this game, there was hope the streak would be broken with an efficient bowling performance. But Sri Lanka put together partnerships and then Al-Amin dropped a simple catch after five wickets were down. It took away the momentum once again, and Sri Lanka walked away with a win. This has been Bangladesh's story over the last 17 days. They have put themselves in some winning positions but given it away.
Mushfiqur said after the Sri Lanka game that one win would fix everything. If it comes against Afghanistan in the opening game of the World T20, it will keep Bangladesh in the tournament till the end of March. For the short-term that would be appeasing, but it will be nothing compared to long-term progress.