The glaring fault in Naim
When the entire batting unit's inept approach against a quality bowling attack on a belter comes under scrutiny, it may not be wise to single out any individual.
Still, the time has come to raise some concerns about Mohammad Naim, since an opener's lingering fragility can jeopardise the entire team.
There is no way to justify crucifying the 24-year-old batter solely for his 20-run innings against Pakistan in Wednesday's Asia Cup Super Four match in Lahore. Instead, the manner in which he keeps throwing his wicket away after showing a glimpse of promise deserves serious consideration ahead of the World Cup.
Naim has only played seven ODIs, which is insufficient to dismiss a batter if the team management sees potential. The left-hander, however, is not a novice to international cricket, having made his debut in a T20I against India in November 2019. Apart from playing for the Bangladesh A squad, he went on to play 35 T20Is and one Test. The number is small, but it is likely enough for one to appreciate the distinction between international and domestic cricket.
Naim, a prolific run-scorer in domestic cricket, has hit 16, 28, and 20 runs in three innings in the ongoing Asia Cup to raise his average to 12.33. Having negotiated the tough initial phase to get a start on all three occasions, unwarranted aggression saw his innings end prematurely.
Former captain and current national selector Habibul Bashar pointed at one of the key reasons behind Naim's failure.
"His [Mohammad Naim] innings was built without singles. We found that the dot ball percentage is very high in Naim's innings. See, he made good starts and looks so good but if I see the matter from a coaching perspective, then I must say he lacks the understanding of how to milk those singles," Bashar told The Daily Star yesterday.
In comparison with his teammates, Naim's T20I performance (35 matches, 815 runs, strike rate 103.42 and average 23.97) may not seem that bad. According to veteran coach Nazmul Abedeen Fahim, the batter enjoyed sporadic successes due to the nature of the format.
"He is not batting with the right frame of mind. I am not sure whether he can understand the idea of calculative risks, otherwise how come he looks aggressive against every delivery. In my opinion, every batter has his own pattern but, so far, I didn't find any pattern in Naim's batting.
"It's not all about the question of form, rather the question of understanding the game. He got little bit of success in T20s because of his aggression but he cannot survive in ODIs and Test if he doesn't understand that every ball is not there to be hit. He has to understand that one need to spend some time in ODIs and Tests to build an innings," observed Fahim.
Fahim also believes the coaching staff should take the responsibility if they believe the batter has the potential to serve the team but lacks knowledge of the fundamentals.
The selectors fought in favour of Najmul Hossain Shanto for long and it paid off. There is nothing wrong with giving a player enough chances if he is picked for the team but the investment must be made in the right place.
"His go-to mindset, which is to punish the ball, works in domestic cricket because of the quality of bowling. He scored big runs in domestic cricket… but you have to rotate the strikes in international cricket if you want to carry your knocks," said Bashar.
It remains to be seen how far a batter can go when he lacks the skills to take singles and rotate strike, something that ideally should be a batter's prerequisite knowledge before entering the national side.