Lacking form, depth and power, Bangladesh face a stern test of modest resource in Australia, writes ELIZABETH BOTCHERBY...
Coach: Russell Domingo
Joined Bangladesh in 2019 and enjoyed a fairly positive couple of years in charge, steering the Tigers into the top six in the ICC rankings and reaching the Super 12s at the 2021 T20 World Cup. Since then, however, Bangladesh's form has slumped, with just four wins from their past 19 outings heading into the World Cup warm-up matches.
Domingo turned his attention to coaching aged 22 and enjoyed considerable success on South Africa's domestic circuit and as head coach of the Proteas prior to linking up with Bangladesh.
Captain: Shakib Al Hasan
Bangladesh have had more captains than you can shake a stick at over the past few months, with Mahmudullah sacked this July and Nurul Hasan stepping into the breach. Shakib Al Hasan, however, is the new sheriff in town. Well, not exactly new.
The star allrounder has previously skippered Bangladesh on nearly 100 occasions across the formats and is his side's third-most experienced captain in T20Is (behind Mahmudullah and Mashrafe Mortaza). He has only featured for Bangladesh sporadically over the past 12 months and will need to bring all of his talismanic qualities if he is to galvanise the Tigers, a side in poor form and who have never finished higher than eighth at a T20 World Cup.
Shakib Al Hasan: He's Bangladesh's leading T20I run-scorer and wicket-taker, second-most capped player, and the No.2-ranked allrounder in the ICC standings – when it comes to cricket in Bangladesh, Shakib is the dictionary definition of superstar. He's also the only Bangladesh international ranked in the top 50 of the T20 Player Index and carried the Tigers at the 2021 tournament, scoring 131 runs and taking a team-leading 11 wickets.
With the bat, he'll be tasked with shepherding a vulnerable line-up through its allocation while adding a touch of stardust – his 44-ball 70 against New Zealand on the eve of the tournament offered a flavour of his talents; with the ball, his economical fingerspin will be regularly called upon, maybe even to open the bowling.
Mustafizur Rahman: Ahead of last year's World Cup, many wondered if the Fizz could rediscover the mojo after a troublesome shoulder injury. His answer was clear: yes. Though a trifle on the expensive side (9.25 economy), he picked up eight wickets. Since then, he's picked up a further 10 T20I wickets in 14 matches and maintained an economy of 8.34. An integral cog in Bangladesh's attack in the powerplay and at the death.
Litton Das: The wicketkeeper had a bit of a stinker at the 2021 T20 World Cup, scoring 133 runs at 16.62 and posting a strike rate of 94.32, and has found himself in and out of the Bangladesh XI over the past 12 months. However, when he has played, he has regularly been his side's best player. A powerful top-order batter, since the last World Cup, he leads the team in half-centuries (three) and boundaries (57 – 46 fours and 11 sixes), and boasts the highest strike rate (139.46). His overall record isn't quite so pretty but the 28-year-old is undeniably a player in form. The only question is where do they use him – at his preferred No.3 or to bolster the top-two?
Shakib Al Hasan is crucial to Bangladesh [Getty Images]
Afif Hossain: As a veteran of over 50 T20Is, it feels a little odd to class Afif Hossain as a rising star. However, the 23-year-old has really settled into his role as a top-order batter over the past 12 months. In between the 2021 and 2022 World Cups, he scored 481 T20I runs at 30.06 – that’s over 50 per cent of his career runs in the format in the space of 16 innings. Two of his three T20I half-centuries have also come during this period, with his most recent (77 not out off 55) sparing his side's blushes against the UAE in September. A powerful striker of the ball who ideally slots into the line-up at No.4.
Litton Das is a brisk top-order batter and knows how to smoke a boundary. He's crammed in 14 appearances since March 2022, scoring 417 runs, including 46 fours and 11 sixes, at a strike rate of 139.46. The pick of his performances came against Pakistan in October, when he smashed 69 runs off 42 balls, and of his seven T20I half-centuries, five have come at a strike rate in excess of 150.
Lower down the order, Afif and wicketkeeper Nurul Hasan are among Bangladesh's biggest hitters. Afif has smashed a team-leading 16 sixes over the past 12 months, as well as 31 fours. Nurul, meanwhile, doesn't possess world-beating career stats – a shade over 2,000 runs at 21.45 and a strike rate under 130 – but he has 13 sixes of his own since the last World Cup and of his 210 runs, around 54 per cent came from boundaries.
This is an area screaming out for a Das-Shakib tag team. Over the past 12 months, only three Bangladesh batters have scored a T20I half-century: Das, Shakib and Afif. Das has three in 14 matches heading into the warm-up matches, Shakib has three in 10.
It's a slightly unnatural role for both players – Das is a powerful top-order batter usually tasked with getting his side off to a flyer while Shakib is the flashy talisman hovering around No.4 or No.5 – but given the flakiness of the batting order and the absence of several big names, it’s paramount that at least one of these two bats deep into the innings in every match.
They performed a similar role against Pakistan earlier in October, sharing an 88-run (55 balls) third-wicket stand and both scoring half-centuries to help their side from 41 for 2 to 167 for 4. Their combined presence should hopefully bring out the best in Afif.
Nurul can certainly fulfil this role given his flair for boundaries and, unlike several of his teammates, he's a batter in good form. Of the wicketkeeper's past 13 innings, he's scored at a rate in excess of 140 on six occasions, including standout knocks of 25 (16), 42 not out (26) and 25 not out (12).
Elsewhere, Mosaddek Hossain briefly flashed his own finisher credentials in the run-up to the World Cup, scoring 48 not out (31) and 24 not out (9) at No.7 against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, respectively, and arrives in Australia with a strong DPL season behind him.
Many and varied. Bangladesh do not have a stable opening pair, with Mehidy Hasan (himself relatively inexperienced at this level) partnered by Sabbir Rahman, Najmul Hossain and Litton Das in recent months. Das will likely find himself filling in at No.2, rather than playing at No.3, in Australia. Soumya Sarkar has replaced Rahman in the 15-man squad, adding experience to the top order, but the 29-year-old averages below 20 in T20 cricket and has played for Bangladesh just twice since the 2021 T20 World Cup.
Further down the order, while Mosaddek and Nurul can fulfil the finisher role, they are not out and out boundary fiends like Australia's Tim David, and the Tigers could find themselves short on firepower.
However, perhaps of greater concern is how they replace the runs they’ve lost. At the 2021 tournament, Mohammad Naim, Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim scored nearly 500 runs combined and no one has been brought into the order to replace them – that’s a lot of pressure on Shakib and Das.
Bangladesh need runs from Litton Das [Getty Images]
Mustafizur is Bangladesh's primary pace threat once again, finishing second in the team's wicket-taking charts at the 2021 T20 World Cup and picking up 10 wickets in his past 13 innings since then. The left-armer is frequently deployed in the powerplay, often bowling in tandem with Shakib, and at the death.
A late change to the squad has seen Shoriful Islam replace expensive right-armer Saifuddin. The 21-year-old, who burst onto the scene during Bangladesh’s 2020 Under-19 World Cup triumph, is tied with Mossadek Hossain as his side’s leading wicket-taker since the 2021 T20 World Cup, picking up 11 wickets in 41 overs. The left-armer has, however, been expensive during this period, conceding 8.8 runs per over.
Right-armers Taskin Ahmed, Ebadot Hossain and Hasan Mahmud will provide support. Taskin and Hasan were the most impressive of the quartet during the tri-series with Pakistan and New Zealand, with the former picking up two wickets and maintaining an economy of 7.58 and the latter taking four wickets (7.91 economy). Though only half a dozen matches into his T20I career, Hasan could offer another opening bowler option.
Unsurprisingly, Bangladesh are not short in this area, with Shakib, Nasum Ahmed, Mehidy Hasan and Mosaddek Hossain to call upon.
Shakib will likely be called upon in the powerplay, perhaps even opening the bowling as he has done on numerous occasions, and was not only Bangladesh's leading wicket-taker at the 2021 tournament but also their most economical. Fellow left-armer Nasum has been productive in the wicket-taking charts in 2022 but his economy (currently in excess of eight an over) is troubling.
Right-arm off-spinner Mosaddek, however, has been Bangladesh's most impressive bowler over the past 12 months. Returning to the XI in July after nearly 12 months away, he's picked up 11 wickets in just 26.3 overs as well as maintaining an economy of 6.56 – of players to bowl more than 10 overs since the end of the 2021 World Cup, only Mehidy Hasan (6.4) and Mahedi Hasan (5.97) have been more miserly.
Bangladesh's bowling attack lacks a genuinely quick bowler and also feels light on quality depth and experience. The late change to include Shoriful at least adds an in-form wicket-taker to their ranks but he is only 21 years old. The pressure will be on both Mustafizur to bowl at his best and carry the pace attack and on the spinners to perform in unfriendlier conditions than they're used to.
Mustafizur Rahman is integral with the ball [Getty Images]
Who takes the gloves?
Nurul Hasan has established himself as Bangladesh's go-to man behind the stumps and has 25 dismissals in 41 innings prior to the T20 World Cup. Litton Das is the second-choice gloveman.
Squad: Shakib Al Hasan (c), Soumya Sarkar, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Afif Hossain, Mossadek Hossain, Litton Das, Yasir Ali, Nurul Hasan, Mustafizur Rahman, Shoriful Islam, Taskin Ahmed, Ebadot Hossain, Hasan Mahmud, Najmul Hossain, Nasum Ahmed
Fixtures: Oct 24 – Qualifier, Oct 27 – South Africa, Oct 30 – Qualifier, Nov 2 – India, Nov 6 – Pakistan
Possible starting XI: Mehidy Hasan, Litton Das, Afif Hossain, Shakib Al Hasan, Mossadek Hossain, Nurul Hasan, Yasir Ali, Taskin Ahmed, Nasum Ahmed, Hasun Mahmud, Mustafizur Rahman