After experiencing a lean patch on the spin-friendly pitches in the recently concluded two T20I series at home, Bangladeshi batters are about to face a different challenge altogether in the forthcoming ICC T20 World Cup scheduled to begin on October 17.
The mantra of success in the home series against Australia and New Zealand has been ‘survival.’ However, the pitches in the UAE and Oman are going to be far from semi-prepared like the ones in Bangladesh.
Since this is an ICC event, the pitches are expected to be sporting in nature, if not absolute belters. Therefore, the batters will have to shift their focus from survival to attack as they have to be mentally prepared both to put big runs on the board and to chase down substantial totals.
Another major setback for the batting setup is the absence of Tamim Iqbal. With this stalwart missing, the opening pair suddenly becomes a bit shaky.
The three alternatives the team has for the opening slots are Soumya Sarkar, Liton Das, and Mohammad Naim. Although the former two have been regular in the national team for more than 5 years, both have failed to show any sort of consistency in any format.
In their T20I career, they have scored at an average of a mere 18.79 (62 innings) and 19.75 (37 innings) respectively.
Apart from them, the remaining option is Mohammad Naim, who has nothing much to show to his name in international cricket, except that 81 runs knock at Nagpur against India in 2019.
For Naim, the criticism is not related to consistency since he has been scoring runs and has an average of 27.14 in 22 innings. For him, the issue has been his scoring rate (105.94), which is far from up to the mark for a T20 international opener.
The next three positions are expected to be shouldered by the three senior-most campaigners. Fans expect Shakib, the second-ranked allrounder in the T20 format, to replicate a similar performance to what he showed in the CWC19.
Shakib got used to the UAE conditions courtesy of IPL will also be looking forward to creating a mark by taking the responsibility of solidifying the top order.
Although no shortage of experience and success in other formats, Mushfiqur Rahim has been a disappointment in T20Is.
In his 82 appearances, he averages only 19.71 at a strike rate of 115.57. His proneness to repeatedly get dismissed while attempting unorthodox shots like a scoop or reverse sweep has been nothing but unacceptable.
The skipper Mahmudullah Riad is expected to hold the innings together as well as to accelerate if needed. He has been successfully playing this role for quite some time with a career average of 24.26.
The lower middle-order slots i.e. No. 6,7 are to be shared by Nurul Hasan Shohan and one from either Afif Hossain and Shamim Hossain with the responsibility of scoring quick runs in the death overs.
There is not much to differentiate among these three. However, Shohan is going to be an auto-choice since he will keep the wickets in the World Cup. As for the other two, Afif is likely to get the first go due to having more exposure at the international level.
Although none of these three is proper power hitters, they are the best bets Bangladesh have right now.
Mahedi Hasan, if picked as the second spinner ahead of Nasum Ahmed, can also come in handy with the bat. While chasing big totals, he can be sent up the order as a pinch hitter.
In the case of batting first, he can throw his bat at No. 8 as well. Similarly, Mohammad Saifuddin, if picked as a front-line seamer who can also play such a role at No. 8/9.
Finally, leaving behind all the stats and analyses, it will only come down to regaining the confidence of scoring big after two low-scoring series and complementing each other as a unit.
The writer is currently studying at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka (IBA-DU).