Bangladesh must feast on crumbs of comfort
Losing teams cling on to morsels of confidence, and Bangladesh is one cricket team which has, in the not too distant past, made meals out of crumbs. The defeats to Hong Kong and West Indies in the World T20 have been debilitating, but they still have something to fight with against India on Friday.
It is quite obvious that there are, first and foremost, several areas to improve on. Most of the batsmen have not made a substantial contribution for a number of games, the ground fielding has been awful and catching overall has been poor too. Mushfiqur Rahim's captaincy has lacked flexibility on various occasions, and his batting and wicketkeeping have been below-par.
In the game against the West Indies, particularly after the chastening defeat to Hong Kong in their first round game in Chittagong, there were signs that the team was starting to turn the corner, but they still left a few gaps in their decision-making and productivity.
It started with the four changes they enforced. Particularly by dropping Abdur Razzak and Nasir Hossain, a message had been delivered to the team, finally, that there was no room for niceties.
Having decided to field first, Mushfiqur bowled Mashrafe Mortaza and Sohag Gazi out inside the first ten overs. It was a risk as well, but seeing how Mashrafe had tied down Chris Gayle, giving away just four runs off ten balls, and Gazi had bowled two good overs (his second and third), he decided to take the chance. Mushfiqur hasn't taken too many chances of late but this was interesting, and it worked mostly, until Gazi gave away four boundaries in his fourth over.
Throughout the West Indies innings, Bangladesh showed patience. It could also be that they were waiting for the batsmen to start taking the aerial route but it was good bowling that tied down Gayle and co.
Small things, like thinking on their feet, had deserted this team for more two months now, but there were glimpses that all was not lost. Al-Amin Hossain called for a catch from short fine-leg and held on to it. Tamim Iqbal took two great catches, the first of which was exceptional, going by Bangladesh's high-catching standards. He took the catch on the edge of the boundary, tossed it up and held on again after stepping over and back in from the boundary rope. The second catch was a spectacular diving effort at short third man; Tamim looked a little shy as his teammates gathered around him.
At the same time, though, Mahmudullah dropped two sitters at long-off and Anamul Haque fumbled a straightforward stop when Gayle had smashed one in his direction. Mushfiqur gave away eight byes in two balls.
Tamim, Shakib, Mushfiqur and the rest struggled with the bat, particularly against the spinners. They might face a similar test against India, particularly Amit Mishra who had been India's man of the match in both their games so far. Generally due to the lack of legspinners in the country, Bangladeshi batsmen are not used to facing them with confidence.
Bangladesh were meek against India last month in the Asia Cup, despite making a decent total. They must improve on that performance on Friday, mostly for the sake of making sense of their own progress as a team and as individuals in the last two years. Bangladesh are a Full Member side and shouldn't be bracketing themselves with an Associate, but having seen fellow qualifiers Netherlands give South Africa a massive scare on Thursday, they will want to match that performance at the very least.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here