ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 – Shanto admits Bangladesh could have done without constantly shuffling batting order

Bangladesh stand-in captain Najmul Hossain Shanto has said the team would have been better without the constant rejigging of the batting order in the World Cup. This admission from a Bangladesh team member has come at the end of Bangladesh’s dim campaign, after regular captain Shakib Al Hasan and the management had defended the decision on previous occasions.

Bangladesh changed their line-up for almost every game in the tournament. Past the two openers, Litton Das and Tanzid Hasan, it was too fluid. “To be honest, it is better if we don’t (shuffle the batting order) anymore,” Shanto said after the loss against Australia. “Sometimes you have to do (shuffle) against certain teams, according to their strengths. But I think the less we do it, (the better). There was a lot of (shuffling) in the World Cup but it was done with a positive intent. If we don’t do it at all, even better.”

The Bangladesh management had put a lot of faith in someone like Mehidy Hasan Miraz, whose surprising batting form led to his being shuttled up and down the order. While there was merit in using him to disrupt the opposition’s plans, it led to other more established players batting out of position. The move did not always pay off either, especially against better bowling attacks. He played at No. 3 against Afghanistan, New Zealand and Netherlands, displacing Shanto, whose success with the bat in all formats in the 12 months leading into the World Cup was all at No. 3.

The likes of Towhid Hridoy and Shakib too didn’t have fixed batting positions. Hridoy was groomed as an ODI No. 5 and had been playing in the position since his debut earlier this year, but he mostly batted at No. 7 in this World Cup. His best innings came against Australia, when he was sent in at No. 4.

Assistant coach Nic Pothas, too, had explained that such changes were part of “modern cricket”. After Bangladesh went down to Netherlands in Kolkata, Shakib offered very little when asked why the in-form Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim were still batting down the order. Only after that loss did Bangladesh choose stability over experimentation, a move which is understood to have come about because the BCB president Nazmul Hasan had sent instruction to stop the shuffling.

Even so, head coach Chandika Hathurusinghe said before the Sri Lanka game that batting in ODIs wasn’t dependent on batters’ positions but the time they came in to bat.

The batting order shuffle was not the only reason for Bangladesh’s underwhelming World Cup campaign. Shanto pointed out their inability to convert starts into big scores, and their struggles adapting from the slow and low pitches back home to the ones in India where the pace and bounce was a little truer.

In the Pune match against Australia, Hridoy top-scored with 74, while rest of the other six specialist batters could not convert their starts. Shanto said that when the top-order doesn’t fire, it puts the rest of the batters under more pressure.

“I don’t want to talk about individual players,” Shanto said. “We didn’t do well as a team. The top-order batters had more opportunities. If we had big scores from the top, we could have been in better positions. We are hopeful they will get big scores in the future.

“Litton (Das) bhai, (Tanzid Hasan) Tamim and myself all got starts. We couldn’t capitalise on most of them. Our target in the future is to make use of these starts. We are saying it again and again, but we have to do it. We need to practice accordingly. Play on certain types of wickets. I am hopeful that this World Cup will help us in the future.”

Shanto himself has not had a great World Cup, especially compared to his pre-tournament form. He made 222 runs at 27.75 with just two fifties and bagged two first-ball ducks. However, in not sugarcoating either his own or his team’s performances, Shanto has shown the kind of straight talk that a good leader is known for. The BCB high-ups are considering him for Test captaincy later this month.

“We couldn’t win either of the matches that I captained,” he said. “There was pressure to handle against two big teams. I think there was a lot to learn, which will help me in the future. I have been leading teams for a while now. I think personally I am ready (for captaincy). If the opportunity presents itself, I will try to do it well.”

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