The team that finished third in the ICC ODI Super League was expected to do well in the World Cup in India. Bangladesh felt that at least the weather and pitch conditions would be similar to those of their home country. But their constant obstacle has been an inability to turn a two-man series lead into major tournament success.
Bangladeshi media traveling in India used words like “experimental”, “inverted”, “gratuitous” and “madness” to describe the regular batting shuffling. When Ravi Shastri joked about Bangladesh’s method of selecting the batting line-up in TV commentary, many fans were angry. But no one really understood why Hathurusinghe and Shakib kept changing their batting line-up in every match.
Shantou was dealing with inconsistent form, changing batting position and then having to lead the side against two top sides. Most of Hridoy’s 518 pre-tournament runs came in fifth place, but he was demoted to seventh place for most of the tournament. His only big hit came when he batted in the fourth. Mehdi’s new positions also meant that Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah were stuck playing a firefighting role (such as stopping batting collapses) from lower batting positions for most of the tournament.
Their batting debacle has taken a lot of attention away from their bowling struggles. They didn’t have a great score to defend against New Zealand and India, but played poorly against England, South Africa, Pakistan and Australia. They started well against Afghanistan, then found some steam against Netherlands and Sri Lanka.
Where has the form of bowling gone in Bangladesh?
Bangladesh’s reputation as an emotional cricket team is well known, so performance on the field is bound to be affected by incidents off the field. The change of captain and coach in the six months leading up to the World Cup was worrying. There may have been enough time to readapt with Hathurusinghe who arrived in late February but the way the ODI leadership changed, it could not have sent the right message to the rest of the team.
Shakib Tamim drama
First, there was the story of Tamim Iqbal retiring and not retiring in July. He resigned from the leadership in August, and Shakib was then appointed as his successor. Bangladesh did not perform well in the Asia Cup, but things still seem to be looking good.
If all this is embarrassing to the viewer, imagine what the situation was like inside the Bangladesh team environment. Given his seniority, not many would have questioned Shakib settling scores with Tamim just before the World Cup trip. For a week, it was the only topic on news channels and social media. Tamim was a popular figure in the dressing room, so he would not have completely disappeared from the players’ minds, as Shakib’s dismissal was intended.
There was some hope that the experienced technical staff could handle such a situation. However, when I looked at the structure of this delegation, it was very heavy. Hathurusinghe was the head coach with Nick Pothas as assistant coach. Mahmood, a board director and former Bangladesh captain who has been at the helm on a number of occasions in various coaching and management positions, has been appointed as team manager. Shortly before the start of the World Cup, S Sriram was appointed as technical advisor. Sriram also worked for Bangladesh before and during the 2022 T20 World Cup. His title was the same, but he was actually the head coach at the time. He received reviews from most players for his man management skills.
Mahmood described the Bangladeshi dressing room as a “quiet place”. There were suggestions of this in many training sessions and matches. Journalists who have traveled with the team for decades have also noted this general lack of energy. Overall, their lack of competitiveness in most World Cup matches was a reflection of the body language many noticed in their team hotels and training sessions.
Captain Shakib and coach Hathurusinghe said on multiple occasions during the World Cup that they would only talk about important matters after the tournament. Shakib returned after the Sri Lanka match with a finger injury. Hathurusinghe, who usually returns home for vacation after most bilateral matches, returned with the team to Dhaka on Sunday. Bangladesh have a home Test series coming up in two weeks against New Zealand. Neither of them has spoken since the Australia match. Brazilian Central Bank (BCB) officials, who are usually talkative, have also been surprisingly quiet over the past 48 hours.
The difficulty of international cricket may allow Bangladesh to quickly move on from a weak World Cup, but officials must take a deeper look at what went wrong, not just on the field or off the field, but also at what the decision-makers are thinking. Every aspect of this team. Of course there is a buzz from fans and followers about poor individual performances or Bangladesh’s heavy reliance on local conditions. Will the Brazilian Central Bank resort to self-criticism? Will they ask any questions to the players and coaches? Will they dare to investigate?
Muhammad Essam is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent in Bangladesh. @isam84