Bangladesh cricket fans were served the same old wine in a new bottle on Tuesday.
After hearing about imminent changes in the team’s playing approach, hearing the captain and management speak about shuffling the batting order and batters saying they are confident about clearing the ropes, they saw the same old Bangladesh team against Afghanistan in their Asia Cup opener.
The Tiger fans saw a team that can neither hit big nor bamboozle the opponents with its bowling. They saw a team that is too set in its ways, hell bent on continuing to play the only way they know how while other teams continue to evolve.
Even with such an insipid approach, at one point, Bangladesh was in contention to win against Afghanistan.
Looking at the scorecard, it’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t a completely one-sided match. Afghanistan restricted Bangladesh to just 127-7 and then chased down the total with nine balls to spare.
But after 14 overs of the Afghan chase, they were stuck on 65-3, 10 runs behind of where Bangladesh was at the same point of their innings.
Afghanistan needed another 63 runs in the remaining 36 balls. Imrahim Zadran was stuttering on 21 off 27 balls while Najibullah Zadran was new to the crease, batting on one off four balls.
But what followed next crushed the hearts of Bangladesh fans. Najibullah smashed six sixes and a boundary of the next 13 balls he faced to finish on an unbeaten 43 off 17 balls.
After the defeat, as is the norm, people are trying to figure out where exactly did Bangladesh lost the match. To some, it was the poor showing from the Bangladesh top-order that restricted them to a below par total.
Some are pointing fingers at Mustafizur Rahman and Mohammad Saifuddin, who conceded 57 runs from their 30 balls and leaked runs in their final overs.
But objectively speaking, it was Najibullah’s late blitz that separated both sides. More specifically, the half a dozen sixes from his bat made all the difference.
In comparison, only one six was hit during the Bangladesh innings. It came off of Mosaddek Hossain’s bat in the 12th over. But Mosaddek has Azmatullah Omarzai to thank for the six.
Mosaddek tried to hit Afghan skipper Mohammad Nabi for a straight six but he couldn’t hit the ball with all his might. Omarzai caught the ball on the boundary line and flicked it back to Rashid Khan, who completed the catch.
But replays showed that Omarzai’s feet had brushed the boundary cushions when the ball was in his hands and the umpire promptly extended his arms to signal a six.
But this was the only time the umpire had to stretch both his arms upwards in the Bangladesh innings.
Afghanistan’s innings was also without a six up until the penultimate ball of the 16th over. Najibullah hit Mahedi Hasan for a six over the cow corner. And after that, as they say, all hell broke loose for Bangladesh.
Najibullah smashed Bangladesh’s death over specialist Mustafizur Rahman for two sixes and Mohammad Saifuddin for a couple more in the 18th over to make the rest of the match a formality.
Najibullah then finished the match in style, with a six off Mosaddek Hossain.
The thing that should alarm the Bangladesh camp the most is that Najibullah’s innings is far from an anomaly.
In the era of franchise cricket, almost every top cricket nation have at least one player lower down the order who can hit sixes almost at will. Top T20 teams have more than one such player.
Earlier, the West Indies were known for playing six-depended T20, where their batsmen would often play a lot of dot balls but always made up for it with lusty blows for sixes. But now, teams like India, England, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and even Afghanistan have more than one ‘six-specialists’ in their line-up.
With all options exhausted, the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) could now consider printing posters and plastering it all across the country as last ditch effort.
For batsmen, the ability to hit a six is gradually becoming as important as the ability to play a textbook cover drive.
But even in this era, we see our top batsmen struggle to hit sixes. They huff and puff and swing the bat with all their might. But the ball hardly responds to their effort as it often ends up well inside the boundary ropes or nestled into the hands of a fielder.
Bangladesh players have given every reason under the sun to justify their inability to hit sixes. They have talked about physicality, the pitch conditions and a few years back, the current skipper Shakib Al Hasan had even said that not drinking enough fruit juice is why they don’t have the power to hit sixes.
Whatever the reason may be, the fact is that Bangladesh is in need of six hitters. The board has more or less tried every potential big-hitter, but the result has always been disappointing.
With all options exhausted, the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) could now consider printing posters and plastering it all across the country as a last ditch effort.
WANTED: Batsmen who can hit sixes. If you are a Bangladeshi that can hit the cricket ball for 80-odd yards, please contact BCB immediately