The 69-run opening partnership between Mehrab and Shariar in 1999 sadly remains the highest partnership in England by any Bangladeshi batting pair. That partnership featured exactly five boundaries with Mehrab scoring 9 out of 42 balls. Although Mehrab should have picked far more singles, it was a good opening stand that laid the foundation of a competitive game.
To improve on that record in England and in our upcoming matches in Sri Lanka, our batsmen must focus sharply on their shot selection in order to build an innings. Above all, the shorter form of the game will demand a rotation of the strike to get those ones and twos. And those ones or twos need to be farmed consistently, but I am afraid the tendency to overly rely on blocking or leaving the ball just to survive will not pay dividends. Even worse, the inevitable instinct of some players to lash out at ?good? balls will have to be curbed.
Whether it is an ODI or a test, the match situation changes fast with Bangladesh. When two good batsmen are batting, it doesn't matter who faces any particular ball, as they will score runs. And whenever they can, I hope that they frequently swap ends after scoring 1 or 3 runs, sharing the burden and forcing the opposition to adjust their bowling every few balls. Unfortunately, when just a few wickets fall, we inevitably see a poor batsman coming out to partner with the surviving ?good? batsman. Logic dictates that it is naturally better if the more competent man faces most of the balls. But to do this, the better batsman will have to forego the signles or triples even if they are available, restricting himself to doubles or boundaries during the first half of the over. This is where confidence and good cricket comes into the picture: the less skilful partner must survive a few balls without getting out, and the better batsmen will try to score singles or triples in the last three balls of the over, thus giving him the strike again at the start of the next over. The aim should be to do this consistently over a number of overs to get the scorecard ticking.
Have our batsmen learnt to work the ball?
Have our batsmen learnt to work the ball around and shift the pressure back to the bowlers? Not really. They still have difficulty rotating the strike, especially when they are unable to score boundaries. This allows the opposition to freely probe our batsmen's weaknesses and deprive a prolific batsman such as Ashraful from scoring. Another example is Rafique, who loves to score boundaries but then tends to get bogged down facing a difficult spell. As a lefthander, Rafique's batting provides a good opportunity to disrupt the bowlers, as a right-left hand combination generally frustrates bowlers. We haven?t capitalized on this and if Rafique and his partner rotated their strikes more, it could pay off.
Having said that, Bangladesh batters still have the talent to dispatch the balls to the boundaries. The number of boundaries looks healthy in relation to the total score. But in the upcoming matches, where I suspect bowlers will rectify any no ball or bad ball problems, I really doubt whether Bashar and company will have the luxury of hooking. So the number of potential boundaries would be scarce. In this respect, it is Bashar, coming in at the crucial number three position, who will really have to try hard to add a new dimension to his game. He needs to stay at the crease until he scores 20. From there he can move on to his natural game, and without worrying too much about scoring at 100% strike rate, by rotating the strike with his partners, farming those singles, looking out for manageable boundaries, he should be able to play a captain?s innings.
Bangladeshi batsman who can irritate good bowlers by picking up 2s and 3s should be rewarded. Of all the Bangladesh players, it is Mashud, and to a lesser extent Aftab, who have done this. Experience in countless one day games allowed Mashud to refine his ability to manipulate his hands, alter the angle of his shots, and adjust his grip to vary the pace of his shots. Crucially, he has aimed to score rather than hit and exercised judgment to see if there is really a run out there. This is vital for ODI batsmen as strike bowlers do have a tendency to get frustrated after a prolonged period of luckless bowling. It is up to our batsmen to introduce this element of psychological ploy that cause errors from the opposition.
I hope we set a reasonable overall team target for the ODIs and conclude the day with a scorecard that reflects a positive attitude. We need to reinforce the ?new found? confidence in our batting that we have witnessed both in the A team matches and in the win against Australia.
We should try to play about half of the shots and score maybe from 40 percent of the shots. The fancy shots will come but should play a lesser role, for it will be the ?number of balls scored off? that will matter. If we can score from 40 to 45% of balls when we bat and our bowlers are disciplined, then we can think of a win. All this can be achieved if we improve on our percentage of scoring shots in an innings. The reading of this particular statistic has been dismal in test matches (as shown in chart 1).
Bearing in mind the bowling limitations of the team, a reasonable target of 200 runs will present enough for our bowlers to try their luck.