World T20 Previews: Bangladesh

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Carrying on our previews of the World T20, Devon looks at Bangladesh. With the preliminary draw starting, it begs the question – will the Tigers get to the main draw?

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The Bangladeshi squad looks, on paper, pretty useful – on form, they look exceptional. Recent successes in the 50-over game – from qualifying for the Champions Trophy, to making the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals – have shown some tremendous talents.

From Rubel Hossain against England, to Sabbir Rahman and Soumya Sarkar in remarkable series wins over Pakistan, South Africa and India, virtually all of the squad have recent international performances to turn to.

The Asia Cup T20 has again stamped that point, with a degree of regal confidence rarely seen from international cricket’s usual whipping boys.

Is it fair that Asia Cup runners up, World Cup quarter-finalists, current genuine bilateral contenders Bangladesh are having to play a preliminary round? Probably not, but it offers a degree of match-readiness that the supposed top-eight aren’t afforded.

UPSIDES

Shakib Al-Hasan. That’s all I really need to say. It’s easy to forget the huge impact that Shakib has had on Bangladeshi cricket – he’s become meme-esque in his omnipresence when the Tigers are referenced, which unfortunately means it’s often ignored just how good he is. He adds an integral element with the bat, remains a wily left-arm spinner, and despite his sometimes exorbitant aggression, remains an important leader in the side.

Equally key is Mahmudullah. He’s continued his awesome World Cup form of late, and while his bowling is usually nothing more than jammy, he is a vital member of any T20 side – someone who offers something in both disciplines, while not letting down in the field either. He’s got great foils in that batting line-up with Tamim Iqbal, Sabbir Rahman and Soumya Sarkar too.

PACE. Although the emphasis has been on Taskin Ahmed and the prodigy to end all prodigies Mustafizur Rahman, perhaps the most important bowler in the Bangladeshi arsenal is skipper Mashrafee Mortaza. It’s easy to look excitedly at youth, but Mashrafee’s experience is key. He might not be frighteningly quick, but he’s a smart bowler, who adds a calm influence both as captain, and as the head of the bowling attack.

DOWNSIDES

Remember when he was the Bangladeshi demigod? It’s been a bad 12 months for Mushfiqur Rahim. Through injury and poor form, it’s been a long time since Mushfiqur made a sizeable contribution in a national kit.

Unknown players. Look through the Bangladeshi team – after the crème de la crème (Mushfiqur, Mashrafee, Taskin, Mustafizur, Shakib, Mahmudullah, Tamim), what are you left with? Abu Hider? Mohammad Mithun? Nurul Hasan? Certainly not household names. Players like Litton Das (who hasn’t made this side) have proven Bangladesh have far greater depth than at any other time in their history, but when a world tournament rolls around, you’d hope to have a fairly recognisable squad.

Spin. Mahmudullah, Shakib, Nasir…then what? It’s an issue they need to address; part-time spin might do fine in the preliminaries, but when it comes crunch time, it’s the frontliners who do need to show. They might yet get a serviceable effort from Arafat Sunny but it’s certainly a loose link in the chain.

THE PREDICTION

It’s so hard to know what the tournament holds for Bangladesh – will they even get through the first round? Associates have been known to spring surprises, and losing to Hong Kong at home in 2014 hardly prepared the side well for the rest of the competition.

They should get through the associates, and into the main draw, but from there it’s pot luck. If the top players fire, they’ve got a formidable attack, and one comfortable in front of mental crowds in subcontinental conditions. Should men like Mashrafee Mortaza fail to show the seniority they need to, or should someone like Mushfiqur Rahim be unable to re-find form, it could be a long few games for the Tigers.

A batting line up of Tamim, Soumya, Sabbir, Shakib, Mushfiqur, Mahmudullah and Nasir is certainly not to be sniffed at, and bowlers like Taskin, Mustafizur, Mashrafee, Al-Amin and Shakib are all very competent. It’s definitely a good team.

As is so often the case in the shortest format, it’s a matter of wait and see. And if I had to take a stab at it? Well then, Bangladesh for the semi-finals. Hell, Bangladesh to win.

But I might be biased.

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