It is a telling statistic that even in Bangladesh's flying start to the Asia Cup on September 15, when Mushfiqur Rahim's sublime 144 authored a 137-run hammering of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh left three balls unused in their total of 261. Set to take on Afghanistan today in a virtual must-win Asia Cup Super Four encounter in Abu Dhabi at 5:30pm (Bangladesh time), Bangladesh are yet to play out 50 overs in the tournament.
The 137-run win in the opener papered over those cracks, but the paper has since been ripped off.
“All areas, really. Overall we have not batted well,” said Bangladesh vice-captain Shakib Al Hasan yesterday when asked which areas they need to improve in batting.
In their next two matches, Bangladesh survived just 42.1 overs against Afghanistan with a score of 119 all out and 49.1 overs against India in their innings of 119 all out.
“To tell the truth, it was only against Sri Lanka, and that too one innings [Mushfiqur's]. Apart from that no one played well,” Shakib added. “So, for three matches on the trot we have not played good cricket, especially batting.”
The Asia Cup has badly exposed the Tigers' over-reliance on Tamim. The left-hander is Bangladesh's highest run-scorer and century-maker and there seems to be no discernible strategy to cope without him. Even when Tamim departed early, like he did when he retired hurt at the end of the second over against Sri Lanka, the rest of the batsmen go into a sort of plan B to make up for his absence. It was seen in the period of consolidation between Mushfiqur and Mohammad Mithun after Tamim's injury in the opening game, but has been missing since.
While Bangladesh were completely bogged down by Afghanistan -- especially leg-spin wizard Rashid Khan -- in their second match, they went the opposite route the following day against India, with five of the top seven, including Shakib, gifting their wickets.
After each of their back-to-back defeats, skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza talked about the importance of preserving wickets in the early stages, but there just does not seem to be the will to implement those words.
The team seems to be suffering from a kind of siege mentality. New batting coach Neil McKenzie had said before the tour that he wanted to see the Bangladesh brand of batting -- not necessarily hitting sixes off all the shots but striking boundaries with cricketing shots and picking up singles in between. However, Bangladesh hit just five boundaries against Afghanistan and played out 171 dot balls. Against India, they failed to score off 190 deliveries.
“We will try to play our normal cricket. In such situations, playing your normal game is difficult, but not impossible. We should focus on what kind of cricket we are used to playing and the type of cricket we should play,” Shakib said.
It remains to be seen what that normal game currently is.