Less than a year has passed, but for Bangladesh cricketers it may seem much longer since their last visit to Sri Lanka. In April 2017, a month-long tour had ended with the Tigers owning equal shares in each of the Test, ODI and T20I series and the possibilities seemed endless for a rising Bangladesh side. There was to be some more success in a rain-assisted march to the Champions League semifinal in the English summer and a shared Test series against Australia at home in September, but it has been very bleak since then.
A disastrous tour of South Africa in September-October last year was followed by home losses in all formats against Sri Lanka in the first two months of this year. Making the picture even bleaker, the Tigers will head to Sri Lanka tomorrow with a big question mark over the availability of captain and trump card Shakib Al Hasan, who is still recovering from a finger injury sustained in the tri-series final. Moreover, the Tigers will be faced with a rejuvenated home team and arguably the best team in the world in India in the tri-nation T20I tournament -- Bangladesh's weakest format.
With the odds stacked against them, Bangladesh will be looking to the likes of Soumya Sarkar to make a difference, and the left-handed opener is well-placed to do so. Dropped from the Test and ODI sides following the tour of South Africa, Soumya has however been Bangladesh's best batsman in T20I cricket since the start of 2017, scoring 286 runs in nine innings at an average of 31.77 and strike rate of 153.76.
Speaking to the press on the first day of a two-day training camp yesterday, Soumya said that while it is always a bonus to have Shakib the bowler and Shakib the batsman in the team, the others will have to step up in his possible absence. And given his record, Soumya will have to lead the charge of the best of the rest.
“You can't be dependent on one bowler [Shakib] and think that if he does well then it will all be good,” he said when asked about the effect of not having Shakib as a bowler to keep the runs down – a particularly crucial aspect after the profligacy of the bowlers in the recent T20I series against Sri Lanka. “But rather than think about that, if the rest of us can give our best then it will be possible to do something good.”
The Tigers have been blighted by an inability to get their batting and bowling firing together in the same match, and Soumya identified that that will have to change if they are to have any success in the upcoming fortnight.
“I don't think you can win matches or do well by just doing well in one department. Even then, if you are lucky it is possible, but it doesn't happen 99 per cent of the time. If you can do well in all departments I think it is possible to win or do something good. It's not just batting or bowling, fielding is important too.”