On the back drop of historic milestones of achieving double White Wash by Bangladesh against arch rival Zimbabwe in Test and ODI series BCB has just released the primary list of thirty players for ICC World Cup 2015. The tournament will be played in completely different cricket environment against much better prepared oppositions. Not under valuing recent successes at all this write up will address the issues and challenges of Bangladesh cricket team in the ICC World Cup.
Need Horses for the Courses
Bangladesh is placed in a group which has Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, England, Afghanistan and Scotland. The four matches in Australia against Afghanistan, Australia, Sri Lanka and England will be played at Manuka Oval, Woolong Gabba, MCG, and Adelaide Oval. Bangladesh will play against Scotland at Nelson and host New Zealand at Nelson in New Zealand. In the past Bangladesh team played in New Zealand but for the first time the team will appear in four major venues of Australia. The only other Bangladesh team experience of Australia was at Darwin and Cairns. The conditions of major Australian venues are so different which may be a great cause of concerns for tigers for getting acclimatized in the short time.
This writer lives in Melbourne Australia and tries to remain informed about cricket being played in down under. Traditionally teams from Indian sub-continent struggle a lot in adjusting to pacey, bouncy conditions of Australian Wickets and seaming wickets of New Zealand. Moreover, present Bangladesh team being very young may be a bit overawed in its first exposure to cricket coliseums like Gabba, Adelaide Oval and MCG. Series white wash against Zimbabwe in slow, low turning tracks have made the expectations of tiger fans sky rocketing. But we must judge things in their true perspectives. We will be needing horses for the courses.
This writer had some useful discussions with Bangladesh icons Roqibul Hasan, Gazi Ashraf, and Aminul Islam. I cannot agree more with them that Bangladesh will need to rethink few areas of concerns before the final fifteen is selected for the very important high voltage tournament. We need a balanced Bangladesh attack primarily based on pace bowlers who can consistently bowl around 140 kmh plus and bowl in the corridor of uncertainty .Yes we need 5 pacers among the 15. To start with inspiring captain fit Mashrafee bin Murtaza is always a serious weapon in the armory for his aggressive talent, length, control and movement. Mashrafee will enjoy the pace and bounce and can definitely be expected to earn break through with new ball. Teenager Taskin Ahmed depending on his match fitness will be automatic choice for his raw talent. Between now and the world cup Taskin must be nursed and prepared well. Without having much idea about the ground conditions where Bangladesh A team played in West Bengal. Bangladesh think tank took a gamble in risking with Taskin which back fired. A fully fit Taskin will be great asset for Bangladesh especially on Gabba, Adelaide Oval, MCG and Manuka Oval. Roqibul who also serves as match referee now in international and local cricket thinks Rubel, Shafiul and Shohid to make the final eleven. The only other pacers in the thirty are Abul Hasan and Al Amin Hossain. We have to consider that bowlers bowling at 130-135 Kmh in down under may be hammered around the park unless they have ability to use seam and swing and are apt at changing paces intelligently. There has to be a toss of coin among Abul Hasan, Al Amin Hossain, Shafiul and rookie Shahid. We hope Heath Streak and Hatura Singhe will choose the three right pacers to join Mashrafee and Taskin in ICC.
Bangladesh now has the luxury of quality left arm spinners. Every youngster possibly now tries to emulate super star Shakib’s bowling talent. There are a few outstanding left arm spinners in the thirty like veteran Abdur Razzak, Taijul and Arafat Sunny. Finger spinners on Australian wickets hardly get any purchase. Bowlers of the caliber of Mutthiah Muralidharan and Saeed Aajmal also did not have notable success there. Wickets in New Zealand are not big and are not considered suitable for finger spinners. We do not consider that Bangladesh should play more than two left arm spinners in matches against Australia, England and Sri Lanka. But against Afghanistan and Scotland we may stifle them with quality left arm spins. I will suggest Taijul and Arafat Sunny to be in the side. But for short statured Sunny it may be a bit tricky in pitching the ball to right length in down under. Shakib off course will get wicket against any opposition anywhere. I am not so sure that veteran Razzak can still make the grade. But if he is in touch his experience can be invaluable. But all left arm spinners are not good fielders I have been told. Perhaps that is among reasons why Saqlain Sajeb was not chosen.
Teenage prodigy Jubair Hossain must be gambled at any cost. He appeared to this writer an exciting prospect for his courage, loop and variety. He has already impressed the great Australian leg spinner Shane Warne. Against Afghanistan, Scotland he will be instant success. Even against Sri Lanka at MCG, Australia at Gabba, Bribane and England at Adelaide Oval he may get wickets if used intelligently. For me Jubair must be in the final fifteen.
In my analysis Bangladesh attack may have 5 pacers, two left arm spinners including Sakib and Jubair. Mahamudullah, Shabbir Rahman and Shubhagato Hom can be relied upon as fillers if required.
Batting A Cause of Concern.
I am sure many will dispute with me if I say batting may turn into a big concern for Bangladesh in world cup given the sizzling forms of the batsmen against Zimbabwe at home condition. In Australia and New Zealand opponent bowlers will not offer juicy half volleys to punch straight or through the covers. There will be either fast lifting deliveries aiming at rib cages or toe crashing Yorkers. The likes of Mitchel Johson, Hazelwood, Harriss, Cummins, Malinga, Boult, and Anderson will cause serious issues. Even Zadrans and Hamid Hasan of Afghanistan may cause issues. Batsmen who do not have enough skills of playing square on the back foot will not succeed. Tamim is automatic choice. But we have to consider who should pair with him. Anamul, Kayes and even Tamim have tendencies of poking balls living them at pace. The thirty includes Liton Das who according to many has good skills. On Australian condition we have to counter fire with fire. But even then our openers and top order must not play away from the body early on. Playing out the first few overs with restraint and waiting for loose deliveries will be the key. But taking singles dropping the balls with soft hand and rotating the strikes will be ideal. I will highly recommend Mominul in playing eleven against Australia, Sri Lanka and England. His solid technique, temperament and skills of playing late will come handy. In our opinion Mushfique is the best technically equipped batsman in the team. His ideal position is number four. He can anchor the innings and change gear whenever required. Shakib will be ideally suited to bat at number five. With Mahamudullah looking solid and confident he is ideally suited at number six. The number seven position is up for the grab with several contenders. Roquibul and others believe Shabbir Rahman can be ideally suited. He can chip in with some overs in bowling and is perhaps the best fielder of the team at the moment. Nasir, Naeem and Shubhagato Hom will vie for the spot. Mashrafee and three bowlers will make the even. We may need at least one pace bowling all-rounder to choose from Mukhtar Ali and Zia Ur Rahman.
But again batting successes in low slow dead wickets cannot be ideal parameters for choosing the final fifteen. Neither will it prepare our batsmen ideally for world cup. Since there is hardly much time left we may think of arranging some practice matches on matting wickets which will develop batsmen skills in playing more on the back foot.
Bangladesh must field well also. They must take their chances. Slip fielding and fielding at Square leg, point and gully will be key. MCG, Gabba and Adelaide Oval grounds have issues of taking catches in the twilights as balls are lost in the background. Sometimes it rains also in summer in Southern hemisphere. Imran’s cornered tigers had real luck in edging out England in the rain affected group match which otherwise was going against them. Weather forecast is very reliable in that [art of the world. Batting first after winning the toss in matches other than MCG and Brisbane may be recommended.
Bangladesh will play two official practice matches and is reportedly arranging two more. Tigers will be based in Brisbane. I find little reasons why Bangladesh should not win against Afghanistan and Scotland. Against the rest may not fancy chances against Australia and New Zealand. But Bangladesh must make plans for Sri Lanka at MCG and England at Adelaide Oval. Winning against one of them will put them in good stead for the second round. Bangladesh will also be required to demonstrate strong mental toughness and be ready to respond with fire against fire. There is no scope of playing soft cricket in world cup. Team must exercise strong discipline.
Mashrafee is a great Bangladeshi at heart and soul. He has very competent Mushfique at his disposal. Tamim and Shakib must put a price at their wicket. Now Mahamudullah is playing steadily. Then there is quality batsman Mominul and very talented teenagers Taskin, Taizul and Jubair. Go tigers go.
BDST: 0944 HRS, DEC 08, 2014