Momentum a false front | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 18, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:52 AM, September 18, 2018

Momentum a false front

With the 137-run win in Saturday's Asia Cup opener that skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza had so desired in the lead-up to that match has cast a spell of optimism over Bangladesh's chances in the coveted regional competition. Momentum is the buzz word in Bangladesh cricket, and it is believed that the team needs to start well to do well.

That may be true, but in their last ODI tournament -- at home in January 2018 -- they bossed Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in the first three matches before falling to abject defeats in the second match against Sri Lanka, with the negative momentum then carrying through in Test and T20I series losses against them. 

With recent ODI and T20I series wins against West Indies, they have been riding the crest of positivity but there is a danger that, with opener Tamim Iqbal -- by far their best performing and most crucial batsman in recent times -- being ruled out with a fractured left wrist, the tide could once again turn. If it does, it should expose that the momentum factor is really a false front. The real problem is a lack of real alternatives to the Big Five of Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Tamim, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad on the occasions they fail and when, like now, one of them is missing in action.

Mohammad Mithun was the only batsman other than Mushfiqur who crossed 15 in the Asia Cup opener against Sri Lanka. However, his crucial 63 in the 137-run win has been lost in the fanfare surrounding Mushfiqur's 144 and Tamim's courage in batting at number 11 with a fractured wrist so that the innings could continue.

Mushfiqur on Sunday was generous with his praise for the 27-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman making a comeback to the side after having scored just 33 runs in his previous three ODIs, saying that Mithun's positivity helped ease the pressure on the eventual centurion. Mushfiqur countered that by saying that Mithun should not have gotten out when he did, in the 26th over when the two players had the bowlers at their mercy after at one stage being two down after the first over.

"I think we can improve a lot, the way we lost wickets -- hopefully we'll look after this very well. And also, Mithun was out at the wrong time; we could've made it 280-290 if he wasn't," said skipper Mashrafe, the lynchpin of the Big Five, during the presentation ceremony.

The words of Mushfiqur and Mashrafe reveal a lot, not least why the five cricketers are feted above the rest in Bangladesh cricket. Even in a win they identified a flaw, and unsurprisingly it had to do with a young batsman.

Of course, there was much to celebrate about Mithun's batting on Saturday. After Tamim was the third to depart, not because of dismissal but injury, his 131-run partnership with Mushfiqur was the difference between a loss and a thumping win. During that partnership he dominated the bowling with sheer talent, much like previous youngsters like Sabbir Rahman and Soumya Sarkar had done.

However, also like previous youngsters, he displayed a lack of awareness once the ball was in his court and seemed satisfied with a job not yet done. He was out slogging when he knew they were a man short and that he was needed to bat as long as possible. Having been partially responsible for the recovery, he could also be said to be responsible for the extreme measure of Tamim having to come out to try to complete the innings.

Tamim's absence will be more debilitating than most. So will the fact that if, as seems likely after their thumping win, Bangladesh end up group champions they will have to play three matches in the span of four days in heat that they have not experienced before this tournament. Mithun is an opener in domestic one-dayers, but Tamim will likely be replaced by the uncapped Nazmul Hossain to open with another youngster in Liton Das.

"Obviously, since I have not done much in international cricket before, that was my best innings," Mithun told reporters yesterday. "It was just one match. If I am to have a long international career, I will have to perform well in many matches," he added.

With a pillar in Tamim gone, Bangladesh's Asia Cup will depend on how well the youngsters bear his burden. If they can't, lost momentum will only be the by-product.

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