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Feature

Bangladesh exit T20 World Cup as they entered, timidly

The batting was a huge letdown, the bowling was encouraging, but will there be meaningful change in the aftermath of another disappointing campaign?

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
26-Jun-2024
Another ICC tournament, another disappointment.
But this time, there's outrage among the fans.
Bangladesh were just one brave (yes, difficult) chase away from qualifying for the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup despite going into their last Super Eight game against Afghanistan without a single point. And then their batters seemed to give up without trying hard.
Their batting nightmare through this tournament in the USA and the West Indies might have fed their timid mindset, while in the bowling and fielding departments, there was marked improvement from their performances at previous competitions.
Bangladesh remain the only team to have played every T20 World Cup without making the semi-finals. What will rankle most is how Afghanistan, the team they gave up against, qualified for their maiden semi-final despite starting their international journey only in 2009.
So where did it go wrong again for Bangladesh?

Dreaming small

Before their first match of the Super Eight round, against Australia, Bangladesh's coach Chandika Hathurusinghe said that making it out of the group stage was a "bonus" for his team. He said their primary target was to get into the Super Eight and now they could play this phase with more freedom. Bangladesh's cricket in their three Super Eight matches suggested that Hathurusinghe's message was misinterpreted. Or he set the bar too low.
Bangladesh could have topped Group D had they won their close game against South Africa. Their bowlers set up wins against Sri Lanka, Netherlands and Nepal in favourable conditions, a relief after their 2-1 defeat in a bilateral series against USA shortly before the T20 World Cup.
Their lack of initiative to push hard for a semifinal spot stems from this mindset. Bangladesh aimed for low-hanging fruit. After they beat Sri Lanka, it was only about avoiding getting beaten by the Associates. Once Nepal and Netherlands were out of the way, Bangladesh had realised what they set out to achieve.

Experienced batters fail to show up

You don't have to go too far back to trace the slowdown. Bangladesh were batting positively against Sri Lanka in March. But by May there were signs of concern against Zimbabwe, a series Bangladesh used to experiment with their line-ups. Concern grew into worry a few weeks later, when they lost twice to USA in Houston.
While batting conditions were tough during the T20 World Cup, Bangladesh's top seven fared the worst - lowest average and strike rate - among the teams to make it to the Super Eight.
Bangladesh's shaky top order was the main problem for much of the tournament but by the time their campaign ended, the middle wasn't much support either. 23-year-old Towhid Hridoy finished as their top-scorer (only 153 runs in seven innings) while their most experienced hands Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah averaged less than 20.
Mahmudullah started well against Sri Lanka but couldn't finish the chase against South Africa. He was also in the middle when Bangladesh slowed down in their Super Eight game against Afghanistan, but that was perhaps at the behest of the team management. Shakib, one of only two players to appear in all T20 World Cups, was poor with the bat: his fifty against Netherlands was his first in T20Is for nearly two years, but after that it was mostly soft dismissals.
Bangladesh's batters put safety first in the Super Eight. They didn't try to push the run-rate against Australia and India, fearing early dismissals, and those meek performances left them with too much to do against Afghanistan.

Bowlers to the rescue

Bangladesh's bowlers did most of the team's good work during the T20 World Cup. They restricted Sri Lanka and South Africa, defended 106 against Nepal, and had Afghanistan's batters under control for 19 overs too. The pace unit led the way and legspinner Rishad Hossain was a revelation. In his first big tournament, Rishad, 21, took 14 wickets, as many as Rashid Khan by the end of the Super Eight stage.
Tanzim Hasan, another 21-year old, was their best fast bowler with 11 wickets and an economy rate of 6.20. His consistency kept Shoriful Islam, who was considered first choice, out of Bangladesh's XI for the whole tournament. Mustafizur Rahman bowled superbly in the death in every game except the one against India, while Taskin Ahmed bowled with fire despite recently recovering from a hamstring injury.

What next for Bangladesh?

The players and team management are unlikely to face severe consequences for their performance. One or two press conferences, maybe a call for a probe, and perhaps identifying a scapegoat. That's how the BCB usually react after Bangladesh exit high-profile tournaments.
Real change is a pipedream. Afghanistan's semi-final qualification at this World Cup and sixth-place finish in the ODI World Cup last year has established that they are now a better white-ball side than Bangladesh. Several Associate teams are also closing the gap.
The lack of accountability in the BCB means the same people will run cricket with the same ideas and expectations. The team has regressed in T20 cricket. The appetite for big success is not evident. And the powers that be are seemingly only looking to tick the easiest box.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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