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Shakib hopes improved mindset can bring Asia Cup and World Cup success

Bangladesh's Test and T20I captain believes their recent successes have come about thanks to greater self-belief

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
08-Apr-2023
Shakib Al Hasan says Bangladesh's mentality shift took place during last year's T20 World Cup  •  AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi

Shakib Al Hasan says Bangladesh's mentality shift took place during last year's T20 World Cup  •  AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi

Shakib Al Hasan is hopeful that Bangladesh's productive 2022-23 season will translate to a good year ahead. He was talking about the two major 50-over tournaments later this year - the Asia Cup and the World Cup - from September to November. The World Cup is seen as a pivotal tournament for Bangladesh, a side whose favourite format is ODIs.
They started the home season with a 2-1 ODI series win over India, followed by a 3-0 T20I series win against England, and then beating Ireland in all three formats. The challenge was to do well in the 13 nearly back-to-back matches starting March 1, but apart from the 2-1 defeat in the ODIs against England, they won the other series convincingly.
Shakib led the team admirably in the T20Is and Tests, introducing an aggressive style that Bangladesh has often shied away from. He also contributed significantly in the ODIs.
Shakib said a mentality shift has really helped Bangladesh over the past five months. He said they realised the need for this mentality during the T20 World Cup last year when they needed to beat Pakistan in their last Super 12s match to have a shot at the semi-finals. They didn't make it, eventually, but Bangladesh enjoyed their best T20 World Cup campaign, winning two games against Zimbabwe and Netherlands and pushing India close.
"I think our biggest improvement is in our mentality," Shakib said. "During our last match of the T20 World Cup last year, we spoke about how we used to think of ourselves as a small team. We weren't really a small team but if we believed in ourselves, we could have reached the semi-finals. We lacked in that area, so we felt that we needed to change that aspect. Especially those who were in the T20 World Cup squad have undergone that mental change.
"This is an important year when we have the Asia Cup and the World Cup. We want to play well over the next six months. We did well in the first four months this year. We will be mostly playing ODIs this year, a format we feel we are good at."
Shakib had previously mentioned that Bangladesh's mental shift in T20Is started in the Asia Cup last year. Although it wasn't evident immediately, the change became apparent when they beat India in an ODI series late last year. When they beat England 3-0 in T20Is, they did so while picking five bowlers in every game, with the intention of asserting themselves over the opposition. It was an important moment for a Bangladesh team that had previously considered themselves only an ODI force.
The improved mindset in T20Is contributed to big scores in the ODI series against Ireland in Sylhet last month, and similarly high-scoring efforts in the T20Is in Chattogram. Even the choice of venues at home - Sylhet and Chattogram instead of mostly Dhaka - was a sign of progress. Usually Bangladesh fancy playing more in Dhaka as the Shere Bangla National Stadium offers more help to spinners, the team's perceived strength.
With the fast bowlers slowly improving too, and with the team feeling the need to play on more batting-friendly pitches looking ahead to the World Cup in India, the BCB has assented to the senior players' wish to play more in Sylhet and Chattogram. More white-ball matches are expected at these two venues in the coming months leading into the major tournaments.
The BCB has also rung in the changes in the head coach's role. Russell Domingo resigned late last year, after his position was made untenable by the BCB, which made clear it was looking for a new man in charge. The board had already replaced him with Sridharan Sriram in the T20I side, but a couple of months after Domingo's exit, Chandika Hathurusinghe returned for a second stint.
The move was highly unusual for Bangladesh but Hathurusinghe was BCB president Nazmul Hassan's choice for a long time. Hathurusinghe's vision has so far melded well with the rest of the team.
"We want the same results, ideally." Hathurusinghe had said before the Ireland T20Is. "That's what we talk about that we are going to do the same processes in place for us. If we do our processes, I think we are a very good team. That's what we can them to do - improve the processes every day.
"It feels good anytime your team does well, especially when you have a plan in place before the series starts. Then we want to play on good wickets. We knew that our fast bowlers were good enough to give that kind of performance. When that comes to fruition, it gives a lot of confidence."
Bangladesh's fast bowling too has improved, which has led to a wider group being picked in the squad. Fast-bowling coach Allan Donald is also looking to widen the net with the next batch of fast bowlers from domestic and age-group cricket.
Bangladesh's next assignment is a three-match ODI series against Ireland in Chelmsford next month. It is part of the ICC's ODI Super League. Nothing is at stake for Bangladesh as they have already qualified to the World Cup, but Tamim Iqbal, the ODI captain, has mentioned his desire to finish high on the points table to go into the World Cup with a bit of pride and momentum under their belt.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84