Bangladesh’s Nidahas Trophy campaign can be defined by many things. If you are a fan of their brand of cricket, then you would obviously want to define it by their two sensational run chases on the back of a couple of individual heroics with the bat against Sri Lanka.
However, you can't deny their controversial actions on and off the field even if you are their fan. Starting from their Naagin dance victory celebration to their captain Shakib Al Hasan gesturing apparently to call the batsmen off the field after a contentious umpiring decision in their virtual semi-final against Sri Lanka, and the ugly, heated exchanges with the opposition players, and finally to getting fined for their conduct, Bangladesh have brought quite some shame upon themselves.
But it seems that they have realised their mistakes and most of the players along with the support staff and management have apologised for the way they had conducted themselves. They accepted that all the fracas happened in the heat of the moment and were seen to be even apologising on each other's behalf. It showed their team spirit and a willingness to protect each other's back.
However, on the field, more than a collective effort, they have had to rely largely on the heroics of Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah to carry them into the final.
Now, going into the final against India, they should remember that they had lost both their previous matches in the tournament against Rohit Sharma and Co, and both those losses had come as a result of inadequate collective effort.
They started off their campaign with a loss to India by six wickets. Their entire batting unit failed in that match as they could manage only 139 runs for the loss of eight wickets, batting first. Except a couple of run-a-ball 30s, one each from Liton Das and Sabbir Rahman, none of the other batsmen could produce anything meaningful.
Although they made a good start with the ball with Mustafizur and Rubel Hossain reducing India to 40/2 with the new ball, the other bowlers failed to press on the advantage as they kept on leaking runs. India romped home in the end with eight deliveries to spare and six wickets remaining.
They didn't improve even a bit in their next match against India. While Rubel claimed 2/27 in his four overs and Nazmul Hossain bowled a tidy spell of 0/27 in his four overs as well, the rest of the bowling crew went for runs and allowed India to post 176/3 on the board. While Rubel and Nazmul conceded runs at 6.75 per over, the rest of the bowlers leaked runs at 10.17.
And although Mushfiqur played a vital knock of unbeaten 72 off 55 deliveries, the failure of the other batsmen to produce anything significant meant Bangladesh fell short of their target by 17 runs. This kind of performance once again summed up their lack of collective effort and failure to click together as a team.
The only time in the series that they seemed like putting together a team effort was in their second match of the series, against the Lankans. Despite the fact that their bowlers got completely hammered in that match, allowing the hosts to post 214/6 on the board, their batting unit looked at their best as all of them contributed towards overhauling the target.
It started off with a brilliant 74-run opening stand. Both their openers, Tamim Iqbal and Liton Das, scored quick-fire forties. Soumya Sarkar played an innings of 24, at a rate of nearly run-a-ball, which is bit of a dampener in a stiff chase as it was that evening, but Mushfiqur’s scintillating strike rate at the other end meant Bangladesh did pretty well in that period. While it was Mushfiqur who finished the game off with his brilliant knock of an unbeaten 72 off just 35 deliveries, Mahmudullah’s cameo of 20 off just 11 deliveries towards the end was invaluable.
But Bangladesh disappointed once again in their virtual semi-final against the hosts even though they won. Bowling first, they had reduced Sri Lanka to a measly 41/5. However, their wayward bowling allowed the duo of Kusal Perera and Thisara Perera to launch a counter-attack. Both batsmen scored brisk half-centuries and helped Sri Lanka to post 159/7, which didn't even look a distant possibility at one stage.
Bangladesh's batting unit repeated the story as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals and the middle order failed to contribute. Tamim was batting well but he threw his wicket away after consuming 42 deliveries for his fifty runs in a chase of 160. If it hadn't been for Mahmudullah’s blitzkrieg — an innings of 43 off just 18 deliveries — Bangladesh would have packed their bags and returned home by now.
So Bangladesh's team work in the series has left a lot to be desired.
Only two of their bowlers — Mustafizur and Rubel — are in the top 10 wicket-takers' list in the series so far with six and five wickets to their names respectively. However, their overall economy rates of 9.75 and 8.74 are still a cause for concern. Mustafizur in particular has struggled a lot with bowling in the death overs. The Bangladeshi bowler with the best economy rate in the series is Mehedy Hasan Miraj, having gone for 6.6 runs per over in a total of 15 overs. But he has succeeded in claiming only one wicket in this series making his bowling seem totally harmless.
Moreover, the fact that only two of their batsmen in Tamim and Mushfiqur have scored over 100 runs in this series once again brings into focus their middle-order concerns. While India’s middle-order batsmen Suresh Raina and Manish Pandey have scored 103 and 106 runs respectively in this series so far at averages of 106 and 25.75, their counterparts Sabbir and Sarkar have only scored 70 and 49 runs respectively at averages of 17.5 and 12.25. That sums up the huge difference in strength between the middle order of the two sides.
However, now is the time to set everything right. None of these performances would matter if they can get their team to act going in the grand finale against India. Everyone knows that India have their weaknesses in the bowling department and Bangladesh will surely look to exploit that, having failed to do so on two previous occasions. Their bowlers, though, would have to bowl better than their best to get the better of this strong Indian batting unit.
Only then, would they be able to topple a team like India and end their seven-match losing streak against them. Bangladesh have already lost too many times to India, and they would be eager to break the jinx finally.