Shakib Al Hasan seeks to fix batting concerns after 'reality check' ahead of World Cup

Bangladesh captain defended playing Mohammad Naim in all four matches, even as he was pleased with youngster Towhid Hridoy

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Shakib Al Hasan was dismissed for a low score, Sri Lanka vs Bangladesh, Asia Cup, Pallekele, August 31, 2023

Shakib Al Hasan: "We still want to play the right shots at the right time"  •  Getty Images

Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan said that injuries and tactics forced them to tinker with their playing XIs in the Asia Cup, and that they were not experimenting just for the sake of it. They were expected to try out a few combinations ahead of the World Cup next month, but it all went awry as Bangladesh now stare at an exit from the Super Four stage of the tournament after two defeats in as many games - this time a 21-run loss against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
Shakib said they sent Mehidy Hasan Miraz to open against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka mainly because of his ability to handle mystery spinners, a move which was justified after Mehidy struck his second ODI hundred against Afghanistan. However, Shakib felt that Mehidy could give the team some balance batting rather at No. 7, given that Bangladesh are struggling with a long tail.
"We thought that Miraz was a better option [as an opener] against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. He has always handled mystery spinners like Mujeeb [Ur Rahman] and [Maheesh] Theekshana well. That was the reason [why he opened]. It was a well-thought out decision. The openers added 50 runs [against Sri Lanka], but we needed an 80 or 90 opening stand. Then it would have been a different sort of game.
"At this moment, I feel that he has a role to play in the top order. He is a solid batsman with a good technique. Against particular teams, he can do really well. It was not a fluke that he scored the hundred; it can't be. A tailender can't score a hundred against one of the best spin attacks in the world. I think he has a role to play [with the bat], but if he bats at No. 7, it gives us more depth. The younger guys can get exposed in a tournament like this."
Bangladesh's long tail is becoming a headache this year, especially after they started to prefer bowling cover to a long batting line-up. Traditionally, Bangladesh have opted for the latter, but under both Tamim Iqbal and Shakib, they have opted for, in the words of Shakib, the "aggressive" option. However, Shakib said that having a long tail hasn't curbed his middle order's inclination towards playing their shots.
"The dressing room doesn't feel reluctant to play our shots due to the long tail. We still want to be positive," he said. "We still want to play the right shots at the right time. We want to believe in our top seven, who should win you 90% of the matches with the bat. If we put another batter, it will be [based on] horses for courses. Someone like Nasum Ahmed gave 31 runs in ten overs [against Sri Lanka]. If we didn't play him, we would have probably given away 30 more runs, which the No. 8 batter would then have to score.
"There's a lot of ifs and buts after the game. But before the game, how you discuss and want to play is more important. I think we took the aggressive decision to play with six bowlers so that we could bowl them out for 220-230. But they got away at the start. They survived. They were lucky. There were a couple of missed chances. Otherwise, things could have been different."
"It is not that he is getting out quickly. If a batter can make 20, he has the ability to score an eighty or a hundred"
Shakib isn't entirely disappointed with opener Mohammad Naim
But despite having a long tail and some absences in the batting line-up, Shakib defended playing opener Mohammad Naim in all four matches despite him not converting starts of 16, 28, 20 and 21.
"We haven't done a lot of experiments," Shakib said. "Naim is playing his fourth match [in the tournament]. We had a few injuries after the first game, but Litton [Das] came [back] into the picture. Naim got starts in four games. It is not that he is getting out quickly. I think it is more about mentality than skill. If a batter can make 20, he has the ability to score an eighty or a hundred.
"We wanted to be consistent [with Naim's selection]. We didn't want to put someone in and throw him out after two games. He had a decent run. He played four games in a row. He got starts in all the games. The disappointing side is that he didn't deliver when he should have played a big knock. He didn't get out first or second ball too. I am not saying he made a lot of contributions - he played the new ball really well - but when we needed, he couldn't kick on."
However, Shakib admitted that they have to put their deteriorating batting under the scanner, especially ahead of the ODI World Cup where they have historically underperformed.
"We haven't been batting well for quite some time. It is a matter of concern," he said. "We have to fix these problems. I personally feel that we really needed this reality check before the World Cup. We usually do well in bilateral series. You can see our results from 2015 to 2019 to 2023. Our big tests are in these big tournaments where we have never done anything extraordinary.
"We have three matches in the 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 World Cups. You won't find a lot of difference in these performances. We have usually failed after we get the reality check. We are a promising team that's doing well on and off. We lost the last two home series against England and Afghanistan. Our batting [has] deteriorated in the last six months. It is going downwards, so we have to rectify quickly."
But the one thing that still brought "relief" to the Bangladesh captain was the young batter Towhid Hridoy's form since making his international debut earlier this year. Hridoy struck 82 in the run chase against Sri Lanka, having added 72 for the fifth wicket with Mushfiqur Rahim after Bangladesh were 83 for 4 in pursuit of 258.
"It is a relief. He batted really well," Shakib said. "Playing in the LPL must have given him a lot of confidence. He has faced all these bowlers. I am very happy with the way he batted. There is still a long way to go. A big tournament is coming. I hope he continues his form."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84