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Bangladesh reaping rewards of Taskin and Litton's changed mindsets in ODIs

One wants to be the best bowler in the world and the other has been prolific with the bat

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Taskin Ahmed has taken 22 wickets in 19 ODIs since 2021  •  Joe Allison/Getty Images

Taskin Ahmed has taken 22 wickets in 19 ODIs since 2021  •  Joe Allison/Getty Images

Most coaches, captains and keen observers agree that for Bangladesh to do well in any format, they need a collective team effort. Lack of temperament and consistency have traditionally pegged them back, which is often why individual brilliance alone hasn't given them a lot of success. In the past ten years though, they have had two long phases of continued success in ODIs, and it is has had a lot to do with a number of contributing factors.
The latest spate of success in this format has resulted in their early qualification for the 2023 World Cup. Bangladesh won five out of the six ODI series under the World Cup Super League since the start of 2021. It has come at a time when success in Tests and T20Is have been hard to come by, apart from the fact that Tamim Iqbal took over as captain from Mashrafe Mortaza, the country's most beloved cricketer.
Tamim is spearheading and shepherding an ODI team of performers, and it has brought him success. Leading the new breed of match-winners are Taskin Ahmed and Litton Das, both having made impressive comebacks early in their career, and now reaping the rewards of a changed mindset.
Taskin has taken 22 wickets in 19 ODIs since his return to the Bangladesh set-up last year. His average of 35.81 is on the higher side but his economy rate is just under five, and he won the Player-of-the-Series award against South Africa earlier this year. He has been impressive in Tests and T20Is too.
Tamim feels that Taskin's singular ambition to be the best bowler in the world is the highlight of his changed mentality, which the captain believes is helping him scale new heights.
"I respect these kind of players. I always believe that an individual knows what is working for him. I am sure what Litton is doing is working for him. He has been performing quite well in ODIs and Tests, and he is an important part of the team"
Tamim Iqbal
"Taskin's performance has been unbelievable," Tamim tells ESPNcricinfo. "The way he came back, the way he has been bowling in all the formats, it's nice to see. I know him closely. His biggest asset is that he wants to be the best bowler in the world. Every cricketer should have this mindset. He always tells the team that I want to be the best. I think that's fine. He is bowling well too. He knows where to improve too.
"I think everything has come good for him. Physically he has worked extremely hard. Others have worked hard too but we know about Taskin as he got the success. It is more mental than anything else: to keep bowling in the right areas. He has the belief that if he bowls in the right areas, it is good for any batter."
Coach Russell Domingo, who has always wanted a strong pace bowling unit in the Bangladesh side, has found Taskin to be more mentally secured and obsessed with hard work.
"Taskin has been fantastic in these last two years, just through sheer work effort, desire, determination and professionalism," Domingo says. "[He is] always in the gym. You have to stop him from bowling. He always had the pace but he has become a lot more consistent. A lot more secure in his position. In the past, there were always question marks about his fielding, consistency and handling of pressure. He has come on leaps and bounds in all these aspects."
Domingo believes that Litton, the second-highest run-scorer in all formats combined this year, is getting the advantage of an improved approach towards his training methods. While previously he would get out often in the nets, Domingo has made sure he cuts out that mentality, and regains a match-only approach in training.
"Litton is practicing a lot better," Domingo says. "When I got here, I saw him getting out in practice ten times. He was too loose - caught at cover, caught at midwicket. He has found a good routine in practice. We have tried to get him some good drills for his batting, which gets him into a good mindset. I think he can always do some technical work, but he has found a good recipe.
"I think the challenge for him is to find runs when he is not feeling at his best. He is such a confidence player so he has to figure out a way to score runs when technically he is not feeling as he should.
Tamim likes Litton's individuality, and doesn't want to disturb his methods as it is working for him so well. Litton's 1703 runs is already Bangladesh's most runs in all formats in a calendar year, and he leads the team's scoring charts in each of the three formats this year.
"It started with Test cricket, where he had quite an unbelievable year and a half," Tamim says. "He has transferred it to ODIs and T20Is. He is someone who is different in his thought process. I think that's working for him.
"I respect these kind of players. I always believe that an individual knows what is working for him. I am sure what Litton is doing is working for him. He has been performing quite well in ODIs and Tests, and he is an important part of the team."
Domingo is also impressed by how some of the other batters have stepped up. Anamul Haque, returning to the team after four years through a dominant domestic one-day season, made runs against Zimbabwe, while Afif Hossain stepped up as the ODI finisher. Yasir Ali too started off impressively, but Domingo wants him to regain his composure in both white-ball teams.
"[Anamul Haque] Bijoy did really well for us in Zimbabwe. He deserves his spot in the next series. Afif is one of our finishers. He is really calm at the end. He puts in big performance for us. Rabbi [Yasir Ali] started well but then got injured. He played well in South Africa but picked up a back niggle in West Indies, so he hasn't played ODIs since then. He has some way to go to find his way in white-ball cricket. It has been stop-start for him so hopefully we can give him an extended run so that he can establish himself," he said.
Tamim, meanwhile, wants his team to remember what didn't work for them in Zimbabwe, where they lost for the first time in nine years. Bangladesh gave away strong positions throughout the series, by bowling poorly in the second half of the innings. Dropped catches also let them down. The Zimbabwe series also happens to be their last port of call in ODIs.
"I felt [the Zimbabwe series loss] gave us a lot of lessons," Tamim says. "They are a dangerous team in their home conditions. We always got two-three wickets early, but one batter [Sikandar Raza] made the difference. We scored runs but we lost.
"On a good wicket, if you don't follow the process, any individual can take the game away from us. We dropped important catches of that individual, and he just took the game away from us. There's very little margin of error on good pitches against big teams so you have to grab your chances."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84