Bangladesh rattled by misfiring players
Bangladesh made four changes heading into their opening Super 10 tie with West Indies and none of them clicked, and the painful defeat to West Indies underlined confusion among the management as to what their best XI is.
The biggest casualty on Tuesday was Nasir Hossain, who has played across formats continuously since making his debut in August 2011. The stretch is both a tribute to his ability and fitness, but he hasn't scored an international fifty since last May. The drop in form came into sharp relief when the specialist finisher struggled during run chases in the recent limited-overs series against Sri Lanka.
On the surface, it looks the right call. Nasir probably needs a break from cricket, as was reflected in the amount of catches he has dropped this year, especially considering he is one of their best fielders. But if flagging performance was the reason for his ouster, then Mahmudullah's retention is puzzling, even to casual fans of Bangladesh. He averages just four in T20s and 11 overall in 2014.
He was picked as an offspinner, when Bangladesh had already recalled the specialist Sohag Gazi. If Bangladesh wanted to get the better of the opposition's left-handers, West Indies only had three. Two of whom were No.9 Sunil Narine and No.11 Krishmar Santokie.
Mahmudullah did prove useful enough to break the 97-run opening stand by picking up Dwayne Smith. But, he also dropped Darren Sammy twice off consecutive deliveries in the 19th over and was caught behind for one. His batting has been a distinct point of sourness this year, making 12 in three innings. His position at No. 7 means he wouldn't normally have time to build an innings, but in period under scrutiny he had 12.3, 8.2 and 9.5 overs remaining to make an impact.
Having been criticised for defending some of his selections, captain Mushfiqur Rahim finally said that Mahmudullah's time may be up.
"He hasn't played up to the mark," Mushfiqur said. "We have tried a new combination today [Tuesday], but we still thought that we can bank on his bowling if not batting. For our next selection, we will keep his performance in mind and if available, we will use a better option in the next game."
But there were two good calls taken too: favouring Ziaur Rahman as the seaming allrounder over Farhad Reza, who had a meltdown against Hong Kong.
Ziaur should have been in original World T20 squad announced in February considering Farhad's troubles at the international level. But at the time, Farhad, had taken 29 wickets in the earlier season's Dhaka Premier League and averaged 39.71 with the bat. Ziaur had been groomed as a T20 specialist since before the 2012 World T20, but he had taken less wickets in the DPL while also averaging slightly less with the bat than Farhad in first-class cricket.
Mushfiqur can be castigated for picking Mahmudullah ahead of Nasir and for underusing Ziaur, but he would be more concerned with Gazi's ineffectiveness. The offspinner's last substantial contribution was a thee-wicket haul in the series-clinching second ODI against New Zealand in late October. Since then, he has averaged of 81.11 in all formats, the second-worst for Bangladesh in the period, with only nine wickets.
The handling of Shamsur Rahman and Mominul Haque cap the confusion that is dominating Bangladesh's team management and selection committee. Shamsur's BPL success brought him to the international T20 team nearly 12 months ago. He climbed into the ODI and Test team thereafter, and a few low scores in the Asia Cup lost his place to Anamul Haque, with Tamim Iqbal returning from injury.
Mominul was picked for the West Indies game, a batsman who was benched for the T20s against Sri Lanka last month and all of the warm-up and first round matches of the World T20. Suddenly, he was pushed up at No. 3, a role which seems to be slightly out of his grasp in the shortest format, despite being quite competent in Tests and ODIs.
More than changes to personnel, Mushfiqur and coach Shane Jurgensen have to finalise a batting order that reflects belief and positivity, and bring shape to the bowling attack. To the captain's credit, he has backed himself publicly despite the follies. The hope is that he gets it right next time, then the defending wouldn't be necessary.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here