Match Analysis

Taskin's dream of world-class stature moves a step closer to reality

He's worked relentlessly on his fitness and skills since his comeback, and he's become the undisputed leader of Bangladesh's pace attack

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
At the post-match presentation on Monday, Taskin Ahmed told Simon Doull that he asks Bangladesh bowling coach Allan Donald to help him become a world-class bowler. Later, at his press conference, Taskin said Bangladesh's fast-bowling unit dreams of becoming world-class. A couple of years ago, when Ottis Gibson, Donald's predecessor as fast-bowling coach, joined the team, Taskin told him: make me a world-class bowler. But this is not the only thing Taskin talks about.
Taskin also keeps mentioning the word "improvement", and believes the team needs to go through a process of improvement in order to do well in the T20 World Cup. His career-best figures of 4 for 25 against Netherlands helped Bangladesh to their first-ever win in the Super 12s stage of the competition, the perfect tonic for a side that has been quite ordinary in T20Is this year. Many fans dreaded that Bangladesh would go through a repeat of last year's debacle in the UAE, where they lost all five of their Super 12s games.
Against Netherlands, Taskin, Hasan Mahmud, Mustafizur Rahman and Soumya Sarkar combined to take 7 for 89 in 15 overs. While Taskin was the standout, the others did their bit too. Mahmud bowled with economy and purpose to finish with 2 for 15, while Mustafizur, under fire for his poor recent form, conceded just 20 in his four overs. Soumya, meanwhile, took the final wicket with the final ball of the match.
"Everyone is improving in the fast bowling unit," Taskin said. "We dream of becoming a world-class bowling unit. We are positive about it, the process is working well. Conditions differ in every game, so we have to adjust to it. There will be days when I will get wickets, then there will be days when I don't get wickets. I might leak more runs. Or sometimes I will win the game for the team.
"It is hard to predict performances, but we all have the hunger to improve, so that's the most positive thing. Despite so much talk around, our team unity is intact. We are helping each other. I myself want to improve more. I have a lot of room to get better as a cricketer. I want to swing the ball both ways, contribute towards the team's win, these are my targets. I want to take two steps upwards. I want everyone to rate us highly, and that'll only come if we keep improving."
Taskin bowled with the fire and bluster of an enforcer. He set the tone by dismissing Vikramjit Singh and Bas de Leede off the first two balls of Netherlands' innings, both batters poking at and nicking fast, outgoing deliveries.
"We have figured out that the new ball swings more in Australia than the sub-continent," Taskin said. "All the bowlers worked really hard since [the tour of] New Zealand, so we just tried to execute our basics. We are improving as a bowling unit. We are all doing pretty well. Our main focus is to keep improving.
"I played in the 2015 World Cup in Australia. I experienced sporting conditions, the ball swings a bit more with the new ball but gets easier for the batter later. If we can execute according to the situation, we can do well in the future. Our main goal is improvement."
Taskin said his plan was to keep the batters guessing whether to play forward or back, which he had done well in New Zealand and South Africa earlier this year. He added that once the fast bowlers figured out which length to bowl on this Hobart pitch, they stuck to it constantly.
"Length balls, back-of-length balls on a hard length and bouncers were working on today's wicket," he said. "Length ball was probably most effective. Hasan and I tried a few yorkers, but we were strict on the length ball as we were getting a bit of bounce off it. But grounds vary, so wickets will behave differently."
Taskin's return to international cricket last year was inspirational, as stories of revival often are in sport, but it was more of a personal improvement journey than a redemption narrative. Taskin began his career promisingly, but his returns tailed off in late 2017 as his fitness waned. He had an emotional time when he missed the 2019 World Cup, and when the Covid-19 pandemic arrived, he nearly went through a breakdown.
Gibson, who was Bangladesh's fast bowling coach from January 2020 to January 2022, said that Taskin was quite up-front with what he wanted to do, and followed the coach's instructions almost to a T from that point on.
"Taskin is a wonderful kid," Gibson recalled while talking to ESPNcricinfo recently. "He said to me when I first got there, 'Look, you've worked with all these world-class bowlers. I want to be world-class. Tell me what I need to do.' I said, 'Well, first you've got to get super fit. You've got to manage your diet so you're not eating at the wrong times and eating rubbish and stuff like that. And you have to be able to back up spells.'
"He was fully committed to it. I would think he's the leader of the attack over there in all formats, which is fantastic. But he's a good leader off the field as well. He's talking to the other fast bowlers and he's the one getting them up and getting them in the gym, getting them in the pool for their recovery and stuff like that. He's got a fantastic attitude and I'm hoping that he has a really good World Cup this year for Bangladesh."
True to Gibson's words, Taskin has started the campaign on the right path. What would also be pleasing to Taskin is how he has turned into an attack leader too. He missed a few months this year due to injuries and had a few poor outings upon his return. But since the Asia Cup, he has been on the money, giving Bangladesh a bit of hope amid all the doom and gloom of their T20I results. Taskin has now made sure the first monkey - a win in the Super 12s stage - is off the team's back.
With inputs from Danyal Rasool

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84