For the Bangladesh team in Birmingham, there is only one game to focus on -- tomorrow’s World Cup match against India. Winning the game would not only keep them well and truly alive in the race to the semifinals, it will also mark the removal of a big mental hurdle against a team they have not beaten since 2015.
To do that, however, Bangladesh will have to perform beyond expectations in their bowling department, especially the pacers. All three -- skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Mustafizur Rahman and Mohammad Saifuddin -- have been expensive throughout the World Cup. More relevantly ahead of the challenge against India’s in-form top order, Bangladesh have taken a wicket in the first 10 overs of the innings in only three of their six matches so far -- against South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies. Even more alarmingly, a pacer took the early wicket only once, when Saifuddin dismissed Chris Gayle in the fourth over in Taunton.
Mustafizur and Saifuddin have taken 10 wickets each, but most of those have come later in the innings and against a strong batting line-up like India’s, like against England and Australia, the damage may already be done by then. The problem for Bangladesh is that except skipper Mashrafe, none of the other pacers seem to fancy bowling with the new ball. Also, one of the two spinners in Mehedi Hasan Miraz and Shakib Al Hasan have often opened the bowling -- another ploy that could backfire against India, arguably the best players of spin in the world.
“We have to assess what’s going to happen here in Birmingham,” Bangladesh bowling coach Courtney Walsh told reporters yesterday. “If the wicket’s going to turn, it’s best for us to have a spinner bowling early, trying to take early wickets. So we’ll have a look at the [then ongoing] game [between India and England] to see what the wicket is playing like today.
“We’ve got three seamers playing now, Rubel played a game before, so any of those guys can bowl with the new ball because we have been trying to get them ready for that. Obviously if things are swinging and there’s a bit in the air, then Saifuddin gets a little bit more swing than probably Fizz. But Fizz still gets a bit of shape and as you know, Mash is always swinging it around. So it’s always a good option to have, and as I said, it’s just the surface and on the day.”
Walsh also backed Mashrafe, who has just one wicket in six World Cup games so far.
“Wicket is not the key thing in this, I mean there’s run rate as well. His economy rate has been good, he’s bowling well. I am sure the wickets will come. I’m not really concerned about him not getting the wickets; I am more concerned about him keeping it tight and doing the job that he’s been doing. Whenever he strikes up front for us, it’s a big bonus, still two games left and hopefully he can do that.”