Redemption for Shanto or another false dawn

Najmul Hossain Shanto receives the player of the tournament award from the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hassan after the final of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) 2023 at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka on 16 February, 2023BCB

Najmul Hossain Shanto was the only Sylhet Strikers player with a reason to smile after the final of the ninth Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).

Last Thursday, Sylhet took on defending champions Comilla Victorians in the BPL final. For Sylhet, the night began with hopes of winning the title in their maiden appearance. But it ended in heartbreak as they suffered a seven-wicket defeat.

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The Sylhet players and officials, understandably, were reeling from the defeat. But on that gloomy night, Sylhet’s opener Shanto had a reason to turn his frown upside down.

The left-hander ended the BPL with 516 runs in 15 matches, 91 runs more than second-best Rony Talukdar from the Rangpur Riders.

In the prize-giving ceremony, Shanto, as expected, was awarded a cash prize of Tk 500,000 (five lakh) for topping the run-scorers list.

After posing for the photographers with the award Shanto was about to come down the stage when he was told to remain there.

To his apparent surprise and delight, he was chosen as the player of the tournament of BPL 2023. The 24-year-old won a cash prize of Tk one million (10 lakh), an award and more importantly put an exclamation point to what had been a stellar BPL season for him.

Sylhet Strikers opener Najmul Hossain Shanto had a memorable season in this year's BPL
Sylhet Strikers facebook page

Shanto is now the highest run-scorer out of all Bangladeshi batsmen in a single season of the BPL and second highest overall behind South Africa’s Rilee Rossouw, who had scored 558 runs in the 2018-19 edition for Rangpur Riders.

Shanto hit four half-centuries this season, including one in the final which helped Sylhet post a challenging but insufficient total of 175-6.

Najmul Hossain Shanto and Mushfiqur Rahim scored half-centuries in the final
Shamsul Hoque

All these stats should’ve been enough to validate Shanto’s selection as the player of the tournament and also raise hopes that the talented left-hander is finally ready to dazzle in the shortest format for the Tigers.

But a closer inspection of the stats reveals a different picture.

Yes, Shanto accumulated the most runs in this year’s BPL, that too by a country mile. But the rate with which he scored those runs was unimpressive to say the least.

Shanto’s scored his runs at a strike rate of 116.74, which is the lowest among the top 15 run scorers in the tournament.

For comparison, Shanto’s Sylhet team-mate Towhid Hridoy scored 403 runs in the BPL to finish as the third-highest run-getter. But the right-hander had a much superior strike rate of 140.41.

Sylhet Strikers batsman Towhid Hridoy
Prothom Alo

What’s surprising about Shanto trailing Towhid by so much in terms of strike rate is the fact that the former has hit 14 boundaries more than the latter.

This only goes to show that Shanto still hasn’t recovered from his biggest drawback in the shorter formats, his inability to rotate the strike consistently.

This problem has plagued him in the shorter formats in international cricket as well.

In 17 Twenty20 appearances for Bangladesh, Shanto has scored 384 runs at a strike rate of 108.16. After 15 One-Day Internationals (ODI), Shanto’s strike rate is languishing at 60.86.

Despite such a poor scoring rate, the left-hander played in all five matches of Bangladesh’s ICC T20 World Cup campaign last year and also featured in the Tiger’s latest ODI series against India.

Bangladesh's Najmul Hossain Shanto is bowled by Pakistan's Iftikhar Ahmed during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2022 cricket match at Adelaide Oval on November 6, 2022 in Adelaide
AFP file photo

Shanto has already been named in the 14-man squad for Bangladesh’s forthcoming three-match ODI series against England at home.

After becoming the highest run-getter and the player of the tournament in BPL, it’s more than likely that the opener will also be picked for the T20 series against the same opponents and also be named in the playing XI.

Shanto being named as the player of the tournament despite his poor strike rate also goes to show that the ones making such decisions are only taking into account of stats like total runs and total wickets and not the impact of the runs scored and the wickets taken.

In T20s, runs lose value if they are not scored at a brisk rate. A batsman can do more harm than good if he just focuses on improving his run tally and not his scoring rate.

For Shanto to become an effective shorter-format batsman, he has to significantly improve his strike rate and for that, he needs to learn how to rotate the strike more frequently.

Before he does that, Shanto will keep experiencing disappointment in international cricket, no matter how many runs he scores in BPL and other domestic tournaments.