Consistency the key if Bangladesh want to finally have a T20 World Cup to remember
They have a woeful record in this competition and a shaky batting order to contend with. But they also have a premier match-winner in Shakib Al Hasan
Bangladesh have been trying to nail a T20 World Cup for a long time. As far back as 2012, they decided that playing plenty of T20Is just before the tournament will give them a good chance. But like a student who tries to cram the night before the exam, things never really came together.
This time too Bangladesh come into the tournament with cracks, despite recently seeing off Australia
and New Zealand
at home. On tailor-made home pitches that helped the spinners, the visiting batters had very little clue what was happening - but so did the home batters, and it seems that has hurt Bangladesh. Their shock loss to Scotland
in the first round showed signs of their batters' lack of confidence. The top order was gone quickly, before Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan stalled for several overs, trying to rebuild. That didn't work out and then captain Mahmudullah, the team's best T20 batter, couldn't time his big hits.
Their subsequent wins over Oman and PNG ensured a spot in the Super 12s, but Bangladesh have to play a lot better and with more consistency in this round if they are to reach the tournament goal they have set for themselves: reach the semi-finals.
Bangladesh came into the tournament with three consecutive series wins over Zimbabwe
, Australia and New Zealand. But they lost two out of three warm-up games earlier this month, before crashing against Scotland in the first round. They recovered against Oman and PNG.
Mushfiqur, Mahmudullah and Shakib remain in charge of Bangladesh's batting, despite the emergence of several talented batters in recent years. If these three fire together, expect a big score. If they have a combined bad day, the whole team seems to slow down.
, Liton Das
and Afif Hossain
have shown signs of standing on their own, but don't seem to be quite there yet. In Liton's case, he has been around for six years, but consistency hasn't been his companion.
Spin usually dominates Bangladesh's bowling plans, particularly with Shakib as the leader of the attack. The left-arm spinner's varied pace and flight and subtle turn translate into the most bankable four overs. Offspinner Mahedi Hasan
has started well in the tournament, and they also have Nasum Ahmed
, Player-of-the-Series against New Zealand last month, waiting in the wings.
is their best fast bowler, a proper T20 star who has excelled at the IPL. He has been around a long while, yet he still bamboozles the best of batters. Taskin Ahmed
and Mohammad Saifuddin
complement him with pace and variations, while the left-arm quick Shoriful Islam
is waiting for his first opportunity.
Player to watch
There are very few cricketers in the world currently who can bring as much to his side as Shakib Al Hasan
does to Bangladesh. He is the team's best player for sure, but he is also pushing for bigger honours. He had a great 2019 Word Cup - he was one of three batters to tally over 600 runs
, to go with 11 wickets - but after that, he had the low of the ICC suspension
to contend with.
Since his return, he has worked his way back to his best, recently breaking the record for most T20I wickets
. In the UAE, Shakib will bat at No. 3, and be expected to bowl in different situations with his new shorter run-up. He bowled superbly at the IPL and has brought his form with the ball over to the T20 World Cup. His batting will be all the more important to Bangladesh in the absence of Tamim Iqbal
Despite their fine recent form at home and their recovery in the first round in Muscat, question marks still hang over Bangladesh. Both Australia and New Zealand had fielded sides that were missing first-choice players, and the matches were played on Dhaka's infamous raging turners. All the batters struggled and, as already mentioned, that sort of preparation in the lead-up to the global tournament has shown in Bangladesh's batting so far. Can their batters break free and reach potential to help them make a mark in the Super 12s?
1 Mohammad Naim, 2 Liton Das, 3 Shakib Al Hasan, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Mahmudullah (capt), 6 Afif Hossain, 7 Nurul Hasan (wk), 8 Mahedi Hasan, 9 Mohammad Saifuddin, 10 Taskin Ahmed, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84