Will batting woes find a fix ahead of World Cup?
"Our batting [has] deteriorated in the last six months. It is going downwards, so we have to rectify quickly," skipper Shakib Al Hasan had remarked after the Super Four game against Sri Lanka. Bangladesh assistant coach Nic Pothas, who looks after the batting side of things, joined the Tigers in a two-year contract and his first assignment was the series against Ireland in England. As far as Shakib is concerned, the appointment of Pothas is yet to bear fruit.
Bangladesh's batting had turned a leaf in recent times with more aggression in the middle-over phases. However, Tigers' failure in reading game scenarios have often come under the microscope. This time, with the World Cup at the doorstep, head coach Chandika Hathurusingha will be absent due to a family emergency for the first two games against New Zealand at home. Pothas would have to ensure the Tigers carry confidence before heading to the World Cup.
"Chandika Hathrusingha would not be here for the first two ODIs as his wife is having a surgery. He will arrive on September 25th and join the team on the 26th. We have appointed Nic Pothas as interim coach," cricket operations chairman Jalal Yunus told the media on Tuesday.
Since Pothas's arrival, the top three in the batting order has averaged just over 26. Count out the fine form Najmul Hossain Shanto has been carrying, and the picture would look gloomy. Many have been tried in the opening slot and the lower middle-order, specifically the number seven and eight, average over 14 with seven players featuring in that period.
While Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan and Tawhid Hridoy have found runs, it is some of the younger players who have not lived up to their potential. Shamim Hossain and Afif Hossain have been dropped from the New Zealand series. With the New Zealand series being a step towards World Cup selection, would there be improvement in decision-making in the right time? With most of the World Cup squad already being put in a cotton wool, the series would be important for finding backup options alongside veterans such as Tamim Iqbal and Mahmudullah Riyad returning to form.
Given how batters struggled against the bit of mystery spin of Maheesh Theekshana in Asia Cup, or how they attempted shots that do not go with match scenarios, a lot more work surely would be needed.
Pothas himself had identified after the Pakistan match that Bangladesh made it easier for the Pakistan seamers by trying to go after them.
"Yes, we need improvement in that area, but if it was that easy, everybody would be doing it," he had said.
On a flat batting wicket, when batters throw away the advantage of winning the toss and batting first, it is likely that the message has not gotten across.
Pothas originally had been earmarked as a wicket-keeping specialist and was part of the Bangladesh U-19 team's coaching staff in March this year for a one-off assignment in Abu Dhabi. He, however, was appointed assistant coach for the national team a month later to also look after the batting. It remains to be seen whether the South African's new role as interim coach brings any luck.