I can do even better in ODIs: Shanto

Bangladesh batsman Najmul Hossain ShantoProthom Alo

Najmul Hossain Shanto was in the middle of an intense batting session on a granite slab in the Sher-e-Bangla Indoor Stadium in Mirpur with coach Sohel Islam. He was batting against the red-ball, a clear indication that he was preparing for the upcoming one-off Test against Afghanistan.

In Tests, Shanto’s recent record is quite poor. The left-hander only has one half-century in his previous 20 Test innings.

In white-ball cricket, the scenario is the complete opposite as his immense potential in the format is finally blossoming. He has been getting runs consistently in the shortest format since the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in last year’s October.

Bangladesh's Najmul Hossain Shanto plays a shot during the first Twenty20 international between Bangladesh and England at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chattogram on 9 March 2023

In the other white-ball format, One-Day Internationals (ODI), Shanto was reborn in the series against England in March. He also notched up his maiden ODI century in the recently concluded Ireland series.

His white-ball form would surely give him confidence for the lone Test against Afghanistan. However, Shanto was determined to make sure this confidence doesn’t turn into over-confidence.

“When you’re playing well, you start feeling more confident. But I’m not over-confident. I’m trying to remain calm. I’m focusing on how I can extend this good form,” Shanto said after his training session on Thursday.

Najmul Hossain Shanto with head coach Chandika Hathurusingha
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As this is the year of the ODI World Cup, performance in the 50-over format is getting more attention. Although Shanto is a consistent performer in domestic List-A competitions, his international career started off the wrong foot.

In his first 15 ODI innings, he scored just 210 runs at an average of 14. This year, he has scored 456 runs in eight innings at an average of 50.62. All three of his ODI fifties and the lone century in the format have come this year.

Shanto, however, is still not satisfied with his performances, “To be honest, I can play even better in ODIs. I really believe so. But I’m doing better than before. If I can hold onto this form, it would be better for the team and myself. I’m working on how I can extend my 30-40 run innings.”

Shanto has been scoring his runs at a brisk rate as well. This year, his strike rate in ODIs is almost 90. But Shanto wants to be more consistent with his scoring rate, “If the wicket is good, I try to increase my strike rate. In the last match against Ireland, I got out for 35. But I scored those runs quickly (off 32 balls). Because I felt in that wicket I needed to score at a higher strike rate. My goal is to play longer innings while maintaining that strike rate. I think I can achieve that through practice.”

Shanto’s consistency with the bat has also changed the reception he receives from the social media. Shanto, who was an easy target for online trolls, is now receiving praises from all corners.

The southpaw has noticed the difference himself, “That’s normal, isn’t it? If I play poorly, people will criticise and if I play well they will praise me. People are viewing me in a different light because I’m playing well.”

Najmul Hossain Shanto has been great touch in white-ball cricket throughout 2023
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But the 24-year-old doesn’t want to get distracted by this wave of adulation, “I’m on the social media sporadically. I won’t say that I’m not on it at all. So, these things don’t affect me too much. Gradually, I’ve learnt to adapt to these things.”

Shanto’s return to form is also good news for the selectors. The selectors received a lot of flak for continuously handing Shanto opportunities even when he was failing consistently. But now, Shanto is repaying their faith in T20s and ODIs.

Selector Habibul Bashar wants to see the same Shanto in Tests as well, “He has two Test centuries. Initially, we had picked him specifically for the Test team. I’m hopeful that the habit of scoring runs in white-ball cricket will help him do well in Tests.”

Bangladesh's Najmul Hossain Shanto would want to transfer his white-ball form into Test cricket

Bashar also pointed out that Shanto is returning to the longest format after a while, which could prove to be a challenge, “He hasn’t played red-ball cricket for a long time. So, that could be a challenge for him.”

Hopefully for Shanto, the confidence boost from his recent performance would be enough to overcome that challenge.