It's tough to predict how Bangladesh will do at the inaugural Twenty20 World Championship. They've only played three Twenty20 games, winning two (Kenya and Zimbabwe) and losing one. They go into the tournament as rank underdogs still trying to prove themselves in every aspect of the game; perhaps there is no better example of Bangladesh's predicament than their mixed World Cup earlier this year.
Mohammad Ashraful leads a rather inexperienced squad after the selectors chose new blood over experience. There are three new names - Junaid Siddique, Nazimuddin and Ziaur Rahman - and another, Nadif Chowdhury, whose only international experience so far is the Twenty20 game against Zimbabwe. Two others, Ferhad Reza and Mahmudullah, have played five Twenty20 internationals between them. That said, the youthfulness of the squad could yield oodles of enthusiasm, and it would be foolish to write them off; think of the World Cup again.
There are enough big hitters in the side to give the impression that this is a team suited to cricket's speed-induced version, but the truth is that the 20-over game has yet to really kick off in Bangladesh. The two countries they've been drawn with in Group A, South Africa and West Indies, both have successful tournaments at home, in contrast. Given that the Bangladesh side is a crop of rookies more or less, the lack of exposure at the domestic level could be their biggest setback.
In a game that demands athleticism and audacious strokeplay, Bangladesh have capable players. When in belligerent mood, the likes of Tamim Iqbal and Ashraful can cut bowling attacks to shreds. Mohammad Rafique is missing, but the left-arm spin attack of Abdur Razzak and Shakib Al Hasan could well stem the runs in the middle overs. Mashrafe Mortaza, at the forefront of the pace attack and capable of producing crucial batting cameos down the order, is a key player and an inspiration on the field.
The fast bowlers - the exceptionally talented Mortaza included - have a tendency to lose the plot when they're being attacked. And if Mortaza, the spearhead, has a bad day, there's little left to motivate the rest.
South Africa and West Indies both need to be on their mettle when they face Bangladesh as they are the major teams that are most likely to be unceremoniously dumped by a less fancied sideIan Chappell
There is virtually no scope to bounce back from a bad over in Twenty20 cricket; and apart from Mortaza and Syed Rasel, there are no pacers worth the name: the back-up options, Reza and Mahmudullah, are still rookies.
The temperamental nature of the batsmen means that if they don't fire first off, which is often the case, they are unsure of how to approach a run-chase. It is inevitably one or two batsmen who are left with the task of propping up the innings, and that's where the indecision between hitting out and nursing the strike can hurt Bangladesh the most. There have been plenty of ODIs where Bangladesh have let achievable targets end in batting disasters. Holding their nerve will be paramount to their chances of moving into the second round.
Bangladesh are also still without a head coach; the interim replacement, Shaun Williams, has done little.
Players to watch
Aftab Ahmed Aftab has yet to set the Twenty20 game on fire, but his style of batting suits it to a T. Though his all-too-brief cameos in the one-day game have frustrated more fans than they have won matches, they have the potential to make the difference between an average score and a good one in the Twenty20 format. Defiant, carefree, and innovative with the bat, Aftab also bowls handy military-mediums and is a fine fielder, especially at backward point.
Abdur Razzak Not a name you would think of in relation to the slam-bang format, but Razzak's three Twenty20 appearances have yielded six wickets at a very impressive average of 9.50. Against Pakistan recently, when his bowling mates were being carted around the park, Razzak had figures of 1 for 18 from four overs. His fast, flat left-arm spin could well prove decisive during the middle overs.
Nazimuddin A right-hand top-order batsman, Nazimuddin has impressed in the couple of international Twenty20 appearances he has been handed. On debut against Kenya in the second game of the Twenty20 Quadrangular tournament in Nairobi, his 37-ball 43 helped Bangladesh chase down 139 with more than two overs to spare. But it was in the next game, against Pakistan, that he really made heads turn. Chasing a steep 192, Nizamuddin dispatched Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif to all parts of the Nairobi Gymkhana ground in a scintillating 81 off 50 deliveries. Iftikhar Anjum replaced Asif as early as the sixth over, but 20 came off his first over. Nazimuddin was finally dismissed after he had struck eight fours and five sixes, taking back to the pavilion with him Bangladesh's hopes of victory.
Ian Chappell's take
The Bangladesh selectors have been wise in making their 15 choices. They seem to be saying, "If we can't win this tournament, at least let us gain something for the future." The inclusion of three teenagers in the squad and no player older than 25 is a brave move. These cricketers will be able to express themselves in a slightly relaxed international atmosphere. I hope the selectors are rewarded for their foresight.
The batting will be built around their young captain, Mohammad Ashraful, who has the skill to be one of the stars of the tournament, if the responsibility doesn't prove to be too much of a burden. Tamim Iqbal's audacious innings against India in the World Cup displayed talent and nerve, and he'll be hoping to build on that in a format that will suit his style.
The bowling will be anchored by their stalwart vice-captain, Mashrafe Mortaza, who is a lively wicket-taking fast bowler and a capable late-innings hitter. The selectors' desire to encourage youth may have robbed them of some experience in spin bowling, which would be a pity because that has been one of their great strengths in the past.
Bangladesh is far and away the best of the non-seeded sides and South Africa and West Indies both need to be on their mettle when they face Bangladesh as they are the major teams who are most likely to be unceremoniously dumped by a less-fancied side. It won't surprise me if Bangladesh do make the final eight. Rating: 5/10