Bangladesh face tough questions after WT20
Over the course of the last three weeks, the nation of Bangladesh has shown its love for cricket and cricketers from around the world, and proved that it can manage to hold a World T20 on its own. Its cricketers, however, have sung a different tune.
Their on-field performance has been shoddy and un-host like. They have lost five T20 games on the trot, starting with a loss to an unranked Hong Kong after which they became easy targets in the Super10s. At various times during this drubbing, they have repeatedly said how poor they are, why T20 is not their game, how they are genetically unsuited for big-hitting and that their fans should expect very little from them.
To conduct a thorough analysis of what the Bangladesh players did and said between March 16 and 31, one has to first detach Shakib Al Hasan's recent comments from the equation. His belief that home fans should be deprived of the game for two years to temper their expectations was, according to his TV interview with Sanjay Manjrekar before the Australia game, based largely around some hotel staff's eagerness of wanting their favourite team to win.
Also, the controversy that Shakib created was almost expected, after he had created a similar buzz during the 2011 World Cup and immediately after Bangladesh's exit in the 2012 World T20. Shakib has deflected his own frustration by making these strange comments and it should be left it at that.
The focus, therefore, should firmly be on the team's performances. Most of the Bangladesh players came into the World T20 on the back of two ordinary competitions at home - the series against Sri Lanka and the Asia Cup. The team's morale was at an all-time low after they were beaten by Afghanistan and then lost to Pakistan despite scoring 326 in the Asia Cup.
Bangladesh started their World T20 campaign by crushing Afghanistan and Nepal, but there was hardly any ambition left after they closed in on their goal of confirming a place in the Super 10s. Prior to the World T20, however, statements like, "Even teams like Hong Kong and Nepal could beat us" suggested a deeper problem.
Bangladesh appear to be a one-dimensional team with many cricketers comfortable playing in just one format, mostly ODIs, and being one-directional. They seem easily distracted, whether confronted by a loud appeal or a big controversy. It was natural for them to be scared about their livelihoods as serious questions were raised on Bangladesh's Test status when the ICC revamp position paper was leaked in January. That news admittedly had an impact on the team as they were crushed by Sri Lanka in the first Test.
Like most others, this is also a team that wins only when a number of players perform. When they won two ODI series without Shakib - their best player - against West Indies in 2012 and New Zealand a year later, it was a mark of progress. In the final ODI against New Zealand in November last year, they swept to a 3-0 series win by chasing a 300-plus score without Shakib and Tamim and in spite of Mushfiqur's low score.
But form has deserted many of these new performers, like Mahmudullah, Nasir Hossain, Sohag Gazi and Rubel Hossain, which means that a large chunk of players from the team built over the last 18 months are struggling. Only Anamul Haque and Al-Amin Hossain have shown significant progress as cricketers, particularly the latter who played seven games in the World T20 without much trouble.
Their fielding in every game of the tournament also confirmed that their confidence had hit rock bottom. It wasn't just dropped catches or ground fielding; towards the end, it was either a stunner or bust. Tamim and Ziaur Rahman pulled off three great catches between them but when someone like Nasir dropped catches, it became a statement of how scattered the ranks are.
The players were shell-shocked after being beaten by Hong Kong, having plummeted to a depth they have dreaded all these years. In the second phase of the tournament, as rumours emanated from the dressing room, theories abounded. There is a feeling, with evidence in the form of statements and an outburst by the captain, that new chief selector Faruque Ahmed has got off to a rocky start. It hasn't gone down well with the team management and several players, particularly those who had grown out of the habit of listening to a senior figure within the team or the BCB.
One can be certain that a team which looked aimless after achieving its target of reaching the Super 10s would require a sterner boss somewhere in the chain of command. Given how Bangladesh have reacted to certain situations on the field and how woeful they have been while accepting failure and weakness, it is time for a sense of accountability to be injected into this mercurial team.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here