13 batsmen have scored 500 or more runs in a World Cup. Only two of them have ended up packing their bags before the semi-finals – Kumar Sangakkara in 2015 and Shakib Al Hasan in 2019.
With 606 runs in eight matches, including seven scores of fifty or more to go with his 11 wickets, the Bangladesh all-rounder single-handedly carried his team through the World Cup. They won against South Africa, the West Indies and Afghanistan, ran Australia and New Zealand close, and were unlucky to have a fixture against the then shaky Sri Lanka rained out – but in tournament play you need more than three wins to advance into the knock outs.
“The way he played, I think our team deserves to go a little bit further -- if I say more clearly, in the semi-final. When a player performs like this, normally that team should play in the semi-final,” said Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza. “Unfortunately, that didn’t happen somehow. Maybe we didn’t click at some crucial points in this tournament.”
His assessment was spot on; the lack of support for Shakib was evident even when they tried gunning down Pakistan’s 316-run target this Friday. None of the other batsmen made over 32 runs. But perhaps as much focus should be given on the runs they conceded.
The expensive pace bowlers and listless spinners
Bangladesh made 300 or more thrice in this World Cup and won two of those games. But six times out of eight completed matches, Bangladesh conceded over 300 runs, the most by any team. The bowling was perhaps the biggest let down for Bangladesh in this World Cup. Their spinners failed to get wickets and the pacers went for runs.
Led by Shakib, the spinners took 20 wickets, the second most by any team after Afghanistan. But 11 of those were by Shakib himself, with the likes of Mehidy Hasan and Mossadek Hossain failing to be effective.
Mustafizur Rahman is the second highest wicket taker in this World Cup with 20 wickets at an average of 24.2. But notably, he conceded runs at a rate of 6.7. The rest of the pacers were equally lavish, without however being as successful.
Mohammad Saifuddin and Mashrafe Mortaza went at 7.18 and 6.44, while Rubel Hossain, used irregularly, also went at 7.7. Even Soumya Sarkar, the part-time medium pacer, went for over six runs an over.
Only three teams had pacers conceding more than six runs an over, indicating how influential quick bowling has been in this tournament. Bangladesh pacers recorded the worst economy rate of any team in the tournament – an indication of the team’s biggest weakness.
The spirited run-chases, batting revolution and shortcomings
When Soumya Sarkar took on Kagiso Rabada’s and Lungi Ngidi’s short balls effortlessly, Bangladesh were making a monumental statement. They were no longer underdogs who could be tamed by intimidation. From Shakib to Rahim to Mahmudullah and Liton Das, the batting fared much better than it has ever before in tournaments like this.
The highlight of Bangladesh’s campaign was the spirit they showed in run-chases that seemed beyond their capabilities. They remain the only team to chase a 300-plus total this World Cup, against the West Indies; they are also the only team to have scored 300 or more twice in run-chases.
That the average of Bangladesh batsmen is fourth best of the 10 teams is significant progress for a team still considered as underdogs. Importantly, the contributions have come from several quarters -- Mushfiqur Rahim, Liton Das and Mahmudullah averaged over 40.
The problem has been with the opening combination, which logged only one half-century in the entire tournament. The failures at the top meant that more often than not, the middle-order led by Shakib was tasked with resurrecting the innings.
Early setbacks and the lack of a proper finisher played a part in Bangladesh not being able to finish off games as well as they would have liked. While Mahmudullah struck at a rate of 98.75, Sabbir Rahman and Mossadek Hossain, used as finishers in turn, failed to be effective. The two averaged less than 20, and failed to provide the finishing touch that Bangladesh often needed.
The surprise contribution came from Saifuddin, who made a half-century against India and showed an attacking mindset from the word go. He is one all-rounder Bangladesh will look to groom into a finisher in the next few years.
The death phase proved, literally, the death for Bangladesh – with the bat, the finishers couldn’t provide the final flourish and with the ball, they conceded runs with generosity. They lost four wickets or more in the final 10 overs on five out of eight occasions, and scored at over eight runs per over in only three matches. It is worth pointing out that when they did score over eight runs per over or lost less than four wickets in the final 10-over flourish, they won more than 60% of the matches.
Missed chances in the field lose matches
“Obviously, little things make a huge difference, that’s for sure. We dropped a few catches,” Mortaza said in the post-match press conference after the Pakistan game.
The skipper was spot on in his assessment. Bangladesh lost the match against India by 28 runs, but had they not dropped Rohit Sharma when on nine, who knows? Sharma went on to make 104, and took the game away from Bangladesh.
Against New Zealand, Mushfiqur Rahim lost a golden chance to run Kane Williamson out, but made a meal of it by dislodging the bails with his elbow. The New Zealand skipper was on eight then, and went on to make a crucial 40 in a low-scoring game. On Friday, Babar Azam was dropped on 57 and went on to make 96.
While Bangladesh is one of only four teams to drop less than 10 catches in the tournament, they dropped big players at crucial moments. The missed run out chance off Williamson was just one indicator of the corollary to their catching issues – that they were generally sloppy in the field. Their misfields resulted in 67 extra runs to the opposition, while they saved 62, the net runs saved thus being negative.
Bangladesh end the tournament in seventh place, above South Africa, West Indies and Afghanistan – a pointer that the side is no longer a bottom-feeder. Shakib’s all-round skills, the free-flowing middle order, their nonchalance when faced with chases of 300 or more, the return to form of Mustafizur – Bangladesh has a sufficiency of positives to take home and build with. But the team will also leave with a smidgen of regret, that they did not do enough in close games to end up in a far better position.