The recent history of the Bangladesh cricket team’s fast bowling unit is a topsy-turvy one. In an era where the general quality of fast bowling is rising, the national team is not only lagging behind international standards but appears to be relatively ‘out of ideas’ when it comes to improving the state of the bowling unit.
Bangladesh signed pace legend Courtney Walsh in 2016 to guide a relatively young pace arsenal with veteran Mashrafe Bin Mortaza leading the charge. There was also an apparent resurgence in faith shown to fast bowlers as five pacers were included in the squad for the World T20 and the Asia Cup tournaments in 2016.
The likes of Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman showed promise, looking capable of carrying the pace lineup alongside Mashrafe and the likes of Rubel Hossain. Four years on, Walsh has left his post after the 2019 World Cup and even as new pacers have come in, the Tigers have shown little signs of levelling up.
The ODI side regularly features four seamers, even at home, but the New Zealand series last year and the recently concluded World Cup showed that pace is a discipline where the Tigers suffer greatly. Even ace paceman Mustafizur Rahman got his wickets after the 30-over period at the World Cup and the new-ball woes adversely affected the team’s ability to challenge in a major tournament.
Despite Walsh’s best intentions, the pacers failed to execute ideas which were based on Walsh’s theme of ‘consistency’. In fact, bowlers showed more improvement during Heath Streak and Champaka Ramanayaka’s tenures.
Plenty of faces have been tried in all three formats in recent times but the team management almost always seem to fumble through the darkness before stumbling onto familiar faces like Taskin Ahmed.
However, while talent remains on an individual level, the quality never improved. Fizz is still mostly relying on his cutters that he had to perfect due to conditions at home. Taskin is looking to hit the wicket hard, but his inconsistent form shows that ideas did not materialise.
Abu Jayed perhaps suffered from a lack of opportunities while others such as Khaled Ahmed, Ebadat Hossain and Abu Hider have remained on the periphery of the management’s plans, never showing signs of cementing their place. Subashis Roy, once thought to have great potential, played his last Test in 2017 before he too was ‘lost’ in the shuffle.
India, once thought to be primarily a batting side, improved in Tests by finding bowlers who attack. The question facing newly appointed pace-bowling coach Charl Langeveldt is whether small tweaks to individuals will do the trick or whether it is a matter of implementing an overall change in policy for the fast men.
He admitted that his coaching philosophy was different to Walsh’s and he would focus on the individual. He understood the problem of playing pacers in the subcontinent while pushing them to perform in foreign conditions. However, the improvement shown by pacers is directly related to the nature of the pitches here as well, which has left a chasm between current and required standards.
Langeveldt talked about ‘changing the mindset’ of the bowlers, but the aggression that has to be shown on the field can only materialise through skills developed. “It’s [fast bowling] hard work but you need to be clever,” Langeveldt said during a press conference. It appears that for the pace battery to improve, a lot more than just fine tuning is needed.