Forced changes yield few answers

Mashrafe Bin Mortaza
Bangladesh ODI skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza celebrates the fall of a wicket with his teammates. File Photo: Firoz Ahmed

It's not uncommon to see the Chandika Hathurusingha-led team management ring in the changes during a series.

Prior to the 2015 World Cup, during their five-match series against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh had played a total of 17 players in three different sets of teams.

Similarly, drastic changes were made during the four-match T20I series against Zimbabwe in January 2016, ahead of the World Twenty20. There too, a total of 17 players were played in two sets.

There have also been plenty of changes in the current series against Afghanistan, but unlike the aforementioned instances when the changes served the purpose of preparing the teams for the World Cups, in this case the forced experiments will probably leave as many questions as answers ahead of the series against England.

Of course, there may have been a few preset plans regarding providing certain players with some game time, but it seemed as though most of the tinkering was done because plan A or plan B did not work out.

Take for instance the case of the number three batsman in the side. In the three matches, Bangladesh used three different players in that position. Imrul Kayes featured in the first ODI, Mahmudullah Riyad was promoted in the second and finally, Sabbir Rahman played in the third.

Truth be told, none of the players seemed very comfortable with the position. While Imrul did manage to stitch a partnership with Tamim Iqbal after the early fall of Soumya Sarkar, he looked a little streaky during his 53-ball 37.

Riyad, who averages above 70 at number four and scored a half-century in the first ODI while batting at that position, also could not click.

Yesterday, Bangladesh promoted Sabbir, a tactic they generally use in T20Is. While Sabbir did score a half-century, he looked a bit vulnerable at the start. The ball was moving a bit and instead of trying to calmly negotiate the phase, he tried to whack the ball out of the ground with a horizontal bat a number of times. He missed the ball on several occasions, mishit a few and edged one behind the keeper. After negotiating the initial phase he seemed a lot more comfortable and that half-century will give him plenty of confidence.

However, the question remains. Have Bangladesh found their ideal number three batsman ahead of the England series? Was it indeed possible to do that if each player only got one chance in the position this series?

There was further confusion in yesterday's ODI. Riyad, who has been doing so well at number four, came in at number six yesterday. Instead, Shakib Al Hasan was promoted to number four. The move was a little odd considering that Shakib entered the crease around the 30-over mark, which ideally would have been a good time for Mahmudullah to take the baton.

There was an interesting change in the bowling department as well. Rubel Hossain and Taijul Islam were left out of the playing eleven of the third ODI and they were replaced by Mosharraf Hossain and Shafiul Islam.

The one thing that is certain after the Afghanistan series is that Bangladesh's pace bowling department has a lot of work to do. With Mustafizur Rahman injured, one would have expected the likes of Rubel and Taskin Ahmed to step up. However, both the bowlers disappointed in the series and that led to the management giving Shafiul Islam a shot.

Taijul, considered to be one of the most attacking left-arm spinners in the side, did not seem to be as effective and the management immediately turned to Mosharraf Hossain.

The Tigers wanted to play three games against Afghanistan so that they could confirm their strategies against England. Whether they have done that or not remains a question, but the one thing that is certain is that there is plenty of homework to be done.


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