The Financial Express

Have Bangladesh's X factors lost their tone?

Photo: ESPNcricinfo Photo: ESPNcricinfo

Bangladesh reached the Super 12 of this year's ICC T20I World Cup, beating Papua New Guinea by 84 runs in their last match of the first round. 

After that, all went wrong with Bangladesh as they lost an even game against Sri Lanka and got thrashed by England. 

Two players, Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman, needed to step up and be at their absolute best for Bangladesh to do well which unfortunately didn’t happen.

Just before the mega event, both of them attended the Indian Premier League (IPL) in UAE. Although they didn't have the best IPL, especially in the second phase, they are easily the better-adapted ones with the conditions in the Bangladesh squad. 

Shakib got to bat in three innings scoring only 9 runs with two consecutive ducks in the next two matches, one being a golden duck in the final. With the ball in hand, Shakib took only two wickets in 4 innings (in UAE), but had an amazing economy of 6.00. 

On the other hand, Mustafizur Rahman, who had a fairly decent first half, started the second phase with the same momentum but failed to carry it on in the latter stage. In 7 innings, he took 6 wickets at an economy of 8.76. 

Despite all that, their experience playing in those conditions, working with the best coaches in the world, sharing the dressing room and playing along and against the top cricketers (who will be participating in the World Cup) would help them shine, at least that was believed initially. 

Shakib showed glimpses of coming back to form as well, in the two qualifying round games against Oman and Papua New Guinea. Although he was struggling with his timing, he had scored 108 runs -- the highest for Bangladesh, with an impressive strike rate (144.83 and 124.32 respectively) in the last two matches of round 1.

However, in bowling, with an improvised short run-up, Shakib has been bowling a bit faster through the air, unlike previous times. The change has improved his rhythm and he got success. 

In the 3 matches of the first round, he took 9 wickets at an economy of 4.50 and had a massive impact. He has been the best player for Bangladesh so far in the tournament and bagged two players of the match awards already. 

However, Shakib has scored only 14 runs in two Supr 12 games with 2 wickets from the Sri Lanka game and non from the England clash. He has his fair share of responsibility for Bangladesh’s poor Batting performance in the second game as he was expected to set things right coming down at number 3.

On the other hand, Mustafizur couldn't meet up with the expectations so far. Since the last three matches of IPL, and the first round, he has been expensive and hasn't dominated the wickets column either. 

He is trying out different things and has been relying a lot on his seam up deliveries than his cutters and slowers. In the last few years, we have seen him lose his pace and shape at the same time. But recently the way he is moving the new ball at a decent pace (usually 135+ kph), it's certainly a relief to the whole team and the fans.

In the round 1 matches for Bangladesh, Mustafiz scalped 6 wickets at an economy of 8.50, which doesn't do justice to his calibre. However, super 12 saw a further decline as he is wicketless in both games. 

Bangladesh will be playing the rest of their matches in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi where the wickets are usually slow and sluggish, and the ball keeps low with inconsistent bounce. 

These wickets will help bowlers like Mustafiz, who has a really good cutter and slower delivery. And if he maintains proper accuracy, he can be lethal against any opposition. 

The same goes with Shakib. His slow left-arm orthodox bowling and especially the arm balls (which tends to skid a lot) will be of great use on these pitches, providing how he ploys his tactics well. 

It was concluded even before the tournament began that Shakib and Mustafiz are going to be Bangladesh’s X factors. 

Seeing Shakib struggling with the bat and somewhat with the ball as well, and the Fizz is finding it difficult to find his best, it will be the biggest concern for the tigers in the rest of the Super 12 games.

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