‘We have the players to score big’
For followers of the Bangladesh cricket team, their triumph in Ireland was of course a welcome boost ahead of their World Cup campaign in the United Kingdom, but it was also pleasantly surprising because of the way the Tigers made stiff chases -- including the one in the final where they needed to chase 210 in 24 overs -- look relatively simple.
That skill is going to be at a premium in the World Cup as the showpiece event will be played on flat batting wickets where totals above 320 are expected to be the norm, with hosts England even talking of breaching the 500-mark.
Bangladesh, however, have only had six scores of 320 or higher in their entire history, with the highest being 329 for six against Pakistan in Dhaka in 2015. But in Ireland, the Tigers chased down the home side's 292 with seven overs to spare, apart from chasing down a tough revised target in the final against West Indies with seven balls to spare.
Such uncharacteristic fast scoring has not surprised head coach Steve Rhodes, who instead pointed to the wickets that Bangladesh usually play on.
"I think you've got to take into consideration where you are playing. In Bangladesh the wickets are a little bit slower, they cut a little bit and offer spin bowlers a lot more and cutter bowlers -- somebody like Fizz [Mustafizur Rahman] -- a lot more, so it's more of an even contest and the runs are lower," Rhodes told reporters after team practice in Leicester yesterday.
"Here there are good wickets, there are fast outfields and it's difficult to bowl, especially with the fielding restrictions. It's no surprise that we can score the big scores that we do. It's just that we haven't had the facilities to do it before. We've got the personnel and the players to do it and that is what we've been practising over the past 12 months and before that. Bangladesh's ODI cricket has been improving for a while now, so it's nice to see and hopefully we carry on that way."
There has been a feel-good factor about Bangladesh's optional training camp in Leicester, and according to the coach, that stems from the fact that beyond relying on seniors like skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad, the less experienced players have stepped up in the Ireland series. He singled out Mosaddek Hossain's unbeaten 52 in the final, Mahmudullah Riyad's burgeoning role as a finisher and Soumya Sarkar's strong recent showings, saying that Bangladesh are now 'adding up to a team'.
"We tried to play a longer batting line-up since I've been in Bangladesh. We've been trying our best to go in with maybe one bowler who doesn't bat, not three. I think that helps in the big scores because when you're chasing big scores it comes down to the last three-four overs regularly and you are going to lose wickets.
"I think we are starting to get there," he said when asked about strength lower down the order. "Sabbir [Rahman] has got extremely fast hands that helps him hit the ball hard. He is very capable down the order if we need 10 an over. If we need seven an over, he's got a brain and he'll realise what needs to be done there. Same can be said about Mahmudullah, same can be said when you look at the way Mosaddek finished that game the other day. These are some of the players, together with some of the batters like [Mohammad] Mithun as well, and [Mehedi Hasan] Miraz and [Mohammad] Saifuddin -- these are the guys we actually want there at the end of the innings. And I've mentioned some names there that will bat five, six, seven, eight, nine and there's Mash as well."