ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 – New Zealand beat Bangladesh – Bangladesh’s middle-order bungle

The quality of Bangladesh’s batting at the start of their World Cup match against New Zealand was almost matched by the awkwardness of the conversations at the end of the day in Chennai.
Najmul Hossain Shanto struggled to explain why Bangladesh were unsure about the positions of the batters in the middle order, while assistant coach Nic Pothas’ convoluted clich├ęs left many befuddled.
Shanto, who had settled into the No. 3 role in all three formats for the last 12 months, has batted twice at No. 4 so far. Mehidy Hasan Miraz took Shanto’s place at No. 3 when that happened. Shakib Al Hasan has switched between Nos. 4 and 5, while Towhid Hridoy has been at No. 7 after making most of his runs this year at No. 5. Mushfiqur Rahim, meanwhile, has been at No. 6, even though the evidence suggests he should, perhaps, move up to No. 4.
Mahmudullah didn’t have to bat in the win over Afghanistan, was dropped for the England game, and batted at No. 8 against New Zealand; he hadn’t batted that low in an ODI since 2010.
When asked the question at the post-match press conference, Shanto said captain Shakib and coach Chandika Hathurusinghe would be better placed to answer the question. He, however, said that the batters were made aware of their new positions before every game, but admitted that it took a bit of time to adjust to the new roles.

“I am prepared to bat at any position for the team. I have scored runs at No. 4 before. I just haven’t scored runs in two games [in the World Cup],” Shanto said. “The decision [to change the order] is with the captain and coach. I can bat anywhere they tell me to. It does take a bit of time to adjust. Everyone has to be a little bit flexible to bat in any position. We are informed ahead of time. We are aware of our batting positions.

“Now we are talking about it because nobody has performed in those [new] positions. When Mehidy was sent up the order against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup, we didn’t talk about it much. Some of these things are right, some are wrong. The batters haven’t made runs. Miraz and I batted in those positions for the left-right combination. We might have two lefties against the new ball. We don’t have many lefties down the order.”

“Process is the most important thing. His process and thinking was brave. It was well thought for a guy who swings the ball into the bat. He wanted to meet him. The ball went to a fielder. That can happen”

Nic Pothas on Litton Das’ first-ball dismissal

Shanto, the vice-captain of the side, also said that none of the batters had complained about the tweaks. “I think the middle-order batters – those who bat at Nos. 4, 5 and 6 – there’s flexibility in some teams. In our side, every batter is quite comfortable. Nobody is complaining that they are being given new batting positions every day.”

On Friday, Litton Das’ first-ball dismissal, when he charged Trent Boult only for his flick shot to be caught at fine leg, was a bit unfortunate. In that, he found the only fielder in the deep on the leg side. Pothas argued that Litton’s shot was part of the team’s bold approach, but looking at the manner of the dismissals – mostly soft – of the other top-order batters, that argument felt a bit thin.

“He made a positive statement. The ball goes five yards either side, it’s four. We are not having this conversation. We want our batters to be brave,” Pothas said. “Litton had a plan. Boult is a quality left-arm seamer. We have seen what happens when people stand and play. I have no problem with Litton.”

When asked whether it would have been wiser for Litton to hold back for a few deliveries, Pothas said, “You are talking about an outcome, I am talking about process. We are talking in different language. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if that ball went for four. If he batted three more balls and got lbw, we would be having the same conversation.

“Process is the most important thing. His process and thinking was brave. It was well thought for a guy who swings the ball into the bat. He wanted to meet him. The ball went to a fielder. That can happen.”

Whatever Pothas and Shanto might say – or leave unsaid – Bangladesh are in a difficult situation, with two losses to one win so far. England and New Zealand have showed them up, proved that Bangladesh aren’t sure of their strengths and plans. Shanto and Hridoy’s batting demotions are cases in point. And it won’t get any easier, remember: their next two matches are against India and South Africa. That semi-final dream is already looking quite improbable.

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