'You can't buy experience'
As Bangladesh approach the Champions Trophy, perhaps the most auspicious sign is that one member of the team who has recently been out of sorts both mentally and performance-wise has truly turned things around. Mahmudullah Riyad looked like a man hunted on the New Zealand tour at the turn of the year, when the Kiwis excellently exploited his vulnerabilities against the short ball and the moving ball. The turmoil continued into the Sri Lanka tour, where he was dropped after twin failures in the first Test.
Fast forward a month and a half to the end of the tri-series, and Mahmudullah has scored 140 runs at an average of 140 in the four matches. More impressively, he put in a masterful display against short bowling as he and Mushfiqur Rahim took the team home in the last match on Wednesday against former tormentors New Zealand, thereby delivering Bangladesh's rise to number six in the ODI rankings.
Mushfiqur (run-a-ball 45 with three fours and a six) and Mahmudullah (46 off 36 with six fours and a six) came together with New Zealand's total of 270 for eight still 71 runs away with five wickets in hand and they took the team home together with 10 balls left.
“You can't buy experience -- the way Mushfiqur and Riyad batted was unbelievable,” ODI skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza -- who was one of the men fighting to keep Mahmudullah in the fold after he was dropped -- said after the match on Wednesday. “We lost a few matches from that situation, so that fear was there.”
It was a display of mind over matter as Mahmudullah, whose technique is not ideally suited to playing the short ball as he stays side on, was ever-vigilant in picking the bouncers early, which gave him the time to either ramp them over the slips or hit eye-pleasing pulls and hooks. That hinted at hours spent in the nets trying to solve the problem. It is an example that the rest of the teammates will do well to follow in the Champions Trophy.
“The group we are playing in is almost a group of death. We have to play the top three teams [England, Australia and New Zealand] in the world. But you cannot predict anything -- on your good day you can win. We will try to be on our toes from the beginning and if the opportunity comes, hopefully we can utilise it.
“Even though three or four of their regulars will return, I think that a win always gives a team a boost. Before the New Zealand match we have two practice matches [against Pakistan and India] and two important matches against England and Australia. A win gives us confidence and it lets us leave Ireland with confidence, so I hope that will help us,” Mashrafe added.
The Bangladesh team arrived in Birmingham from Dublin at around 3:30pm (8:30pm Bangladesh time) yesterday. They will play practice matches against Pakistan at Edgbaston on May 27 and India at The Oval in London on May 30. They will then take on England in the Champions Trophy opener on June 1 at The Oval.