The world knows what happened the last time Bangladesh featured in a T20 World Cup. So scarring was ‘that’ defeat they suffered against India in the Super 10 stage that, five years on, it continues to haunt several of their senior players. To date, the botched run chase in Bangalore remains one of the biggest what-if cricket stories of the past decade.
But the reason Bangladesh currently find themselves where they are, in the first round vying to qualify for the Super 12s, is because of the aftermath of the WT20 2016. The Tigers lost 17 of the 23 T20Is that they played after WT20 2016, and the horror run eventually led to them missing out on automatic qualification.
And it was a massive step backwards because, despite the poor showing at the World Cup five years ago, they were still a side with a copious amount of experience that had oodles of talented players peaking at the same time. Upwards seemed like the only direction but that wasn’t to be.
However, thanks to the pandemic, so much time has passed since they missed out on automatic qualification that the Tigers have got themselves back on track. Bangladesh have won 11 of their last 18 T20Is, and this includes series wins at home against both New Zealand and Australia.
They are, as things stand, sixth in the ICC rankings and will enter their qualifying group which features Scotland, Oman and PNG as firm favourites.
This is a side that is no stranger to needing to battle with associates to qualify for the main round, having already done so in 2016, and would be hoping to get the job done in clinical fashion so that they can go back to where they belong - with the big boys.
Bangladesh might not be a lot of things in T20 cricket, but what they are is an excellent, well-drilled bowling unit which can be relied upon to deliver the goods for the side. Since the start of 2019, against the Top 10 teams, the Tigers have averaged 22.9 with the ball while conceding at an ER of 7.3. Among all countries to have played 10 or more matches against Top 10 sides in this time-period, only Australia have boasted a better average (21.6), while no team has bettered Bangladesh’s ER.
And much of this excellence with the ball is down to their finger spinners, who are simply mind-bogglingly consistent. Since 2019, against Top 10 sides, the Bangladesh spinners have averaged 21.8 while maintaining an ER of 6.6. Only New Zealand spinners, in this timeframe, have averaged better (18.4), while no team has been more economical.
Note: Top 10 in this list refers to India, Australia, England, South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, West Indies, New Zealand, Bangladesh
The trio of Nasum Ahmed, Mahedi Hasan and Shakib teamed-up to make life hell for batters of Australia and New Zealand, and would be hoping to replicate the same at the T20 World Cup should the wickets assist the slower bowlers like they did back home.
But despite the proficiency of their spinners, Bangladesh’s biggest trump card will undoubtedly be Mustafizur Rahman, who is currently in the midst of his best ever year in T20I cricket. ‘The Fizz’, this year, has taken 18 wickets in just 11 matches, and they have come at an astonishing ER of 5.77.
The left-armer starred against both Australia and New Zealand, and is perhaps the only Bangladesh bowler who can take the pitch out of the equation. Having already spent a month in the Middle-East, the 26-year-old would be itching to leave a mark at the biggest stage.
Bowling aside, one of Bangladesh’s strengths is also the experience they possess. Shakib, Rahim, Mahmudullah, Soumya Sarkar, Mustafizur all have an abundance of big-match experience under their belt, and that should give them a significant edge, particularly against the more inexperienced sides.
In stark contrast to their bowling, Bangladesh’s batting has been their Achilles heel in the shortest format. No amount of chopping and changing has worked, and they will enter the T20WC as a unit reliant on the bowling to do the heavy-lifting.
Since 2019, among teams who will be participating in the upcoming T20 World Cup, only Sri Lanka have averaged lower than Bangladesh’s 20.7. The Dasun Shanaka-led team is also the only side to have batted as slow as Bangladesh (RR 7.1) in this time-frame.
While the presence of several anchors makes the Tigers’ batting a solid unit, the lack of firepower means that the team is always susceptible on flat, good batting wickets. The same was evident in the two warm-up matches they played earlier this week, where they could only post 140-ish totals as they slumped to defeat against both Sri Lanka and Ireland, that too in comprehensive fashion.
While Bangladesh did overcome Australia and New Zealand on home soil, those victories came on spin-friendly wickets tailor-made to suit their strengths. That will not be the case come the T20 World Cup, and the Tigers’ batting unit would need to rise-up like never before if the team is to stand a chance of going deep.
Opener Liton Das, who captained the side in the warm-up games in the absence of Mahmudullah, has had a torrid 2021 thus far, having averaged 9.37. The 27-year-old has only one T20I score over 15 all year, and also failed in the two warm-up games, combinedly scoring 17 runs. With Tamim not present in the World Cup squad, the Tigers would desperately need Liton to turn his form around at the earliest.
While Shakib Al Hasan has been sensational with the ball all year, his returns with the bat have dwindled. The veteran has averaged just 17.81 across 11 innings for Bangladesh this year, and he is coming on the back of an IPL season where he averaged 9.40. As someone who is the nucleus of the middle-order, Shakib’s form with the bat is a concern for the Tigers, particularly with an injury cloud hanging over skipper Mahmudullah.
Best Possible XI
Mohammad Naim, Liton Das, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah (c), Afif Hossain, Nurul Hasan (wk), Mahedi Hasan, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mustafizur Rahman, Nasum Ahmed