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Feature

Litton: 'Some want it, some don't, but I've always had responsibility from the start'

The Bangladesh batter opens up about playing multiple formats, understanding the game better, the famous win in New Zealand, and more

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
22-Feb-2022
Litton Das - "If you are scoring runs, things are easy for you. When you are off form, international cricket can be a tough place"  •  AFP

Litton Das - "If you are scoring runs, things are easy for you. When you are off form, international cricket can be a tough place"  •  AFP

There is a bit of swagger about Litton Das. It is there in the way he walks to the crease, tucks up his sleeves and plays some of his shots effortlessly. It is there in his fluent wicketkeeping, too. Litton always seem to have a bit of time in hand. He has carried himself gracefully off the field, mostly staying out of the limelight. However, some see all of this differently. The swagger is often misinterpreted as pride. Which is why Litton's lean patches come under a lot of scrutiny.
Regarded arguably as the best batter of his generation in Bangladesh, he is also highly rated by the seniors in the side. But Litton spent the first two years of his career promising a big knock. That came in his second coming in the Bangladesh team, and only recently, in the last 12 months, has he shown real signs of consistency, as he was Bangladesh's leading run-getter in Tests in 2021.
There was a lull in his form last year when Bangladesh focused too much on spinning tracks at home, resulting in his poor T20 World Cup. Litton was dropped as punishment during the T20I series against Pakistan, but he has come back strongly. He got a maiden century in the Tests at home, before playing a crucial match-winning knock in the Mount Maunganui Test last month. He also scored a century in the second Test in Christchurch, before helping Comilla Victorians to their third BPL title last week.
His next assignment is the ODI series against Afghanistan that begins in Chattogram on Tuesday.
When you talk to Litton, rather than the swagger, his clarity of thought comes through. He believes that opening the batting in ODIs requires a level of self-assessment rather than planning too far ahead.
"The bigger challenge in ODIs is preparing yourself," Litton told ESPNcricinfo. "You can dominate the bowling once you get set. You know what you are going to get batting in the top order in ODIs. Every bowler wants to hit the top of off-stump. They have a slip and a gully. They want to get you bowled, nick off or lbw. The bigger challenge is in Test cricket where you can't play a big shot if you just wanted to. You have to survive certain phases and get out of it."
Liton however has to constantly adjust to the three formats, being one of the few Bangladeshi cricketers now who plays all the formats. With the pressure of performing, he has had to figure out exactly how to slip from one format to the next. Litton said one must understand his or her role and be prepared for every situation.
"It depends on what my role is. I am a wicketkeeper who bats at No. 7 in Tests. I play predominantly as a top-order batter in ODIs. I don't usually keep wickets, so I have to field well. I have a similar role in T20Is. There are times when I suddenly have to keep wickets, maybe after break of few months. One has to adjust very quickly.
"Even the best players are faced with challenging phases in international cricket. A lot depends on how much of a comfort zone you have been able to create for yourself. If you are scoring runs continually, things are easy for you. When you are off form, international cricket can be a tough place. You will find it hard to cover such times at that level."
Litton is one of the three Bangladeshi cricketers who have played more than 100 international matches in the last four years. Certainly the senior quartet are in their mid-thirties, meaning the likes of Mominul Haque and Litton are having to step up from time to time in leadership positions. Mominul is the Test captain while Litton's regularity as the wicketkeeper shows glimpses of a future full of responsibility.
But Litton insists that he has always been the type who offers his advice to the captain, whether it was his debut game or now.
"Didn't I have responsibility before? I believe that there was responsibility on me when I made my debut. Even at that time, I tried to give my input from whatever knowledge I had. It is the same thing now. Some want to take on the responsibility, some don't. It depends from person to person, but I always had responsibility."
It showed during the Test win against New Zealand in January. Litton changed the mood of the game on the third day with his stroke-filled 86. His four-hour stay at the crease took Bangladesh to the lead, but more than that, his shots started Bangladesh's domination. Litton said that they never really thought that they could beat New Zealand, but could certainly push them all the way to the end.
"It was great to start the year with such a massive achievement. We celebrated on the day we won, and now it is in the past. But I wouldn't call it a bizarre result, but certainly we never thought we'd win against New Zealand in a dominating manner.
"Our motive was to take the Test to the fifth day, since we usually lose Tests in three or three and a half days in New Zealand. We are talking about the No. 1 team in the world in their home ground, so that was always something we considered."
At this juncture of his international career, Litton doesn't want to make any tall claims. The last seven years have made Litton realise that, despite taking a bit of time, he has improved in his understanding of cricket, particularly Tests. For now he is happy with this bit of critical progress.
"I won't say that I have reached any new levels, but I have realised that a player needs 15 to 20 Test matches to grow into the game. Maybe someone with more talent needs fewer games but I needed a bit of time to know what Test cricket truly is. A lot of situations vary. I feel I am getting better at understanding Test cricket, which I think this is the big change."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84