Najmul Hossain Shanto does the improbable as Bangladesh begin to believe by StuffsEarth

Estimated read time 21 min read

2023 was meant to be the year Bangladesh finally turned up in an ICC event and show the rest of the world that they were no longer pushovers.

Instead, team politics came to hamper the Tigers terribly, barely scraping to eighth spot with a toothless batting line-up, a bowling attack lacking penetration in the middle overs and skipper Shakib Al Hasan failing to lead his troops adequately.

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Bangladesh’s selectors opted for a clean out, opting for Najmul Hossain Shanto to become the white-ball captain for Bangladesh in their tour of New Zealand, with experienced campaigners Al Hasan and Mahmudullah left out.

Prior to this tour, Bangladesh had never won a limited overs international in New Zealand against the Black Caps. By the end of the tour, they had won two games, narrowly losing a competitive three-match ODI series 2-1 and drawing the three-match T20I series 1-1.

Shanto’s aggressive captaincy when it came to utilising his seamers was huge, alongside giving rookie leg spinner Rishad Hossain the tough overs to create chances.

However, it did not all go rosy for Shanto. Following a 2-1 T20I series loss to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh would win 4-1 against Zimbabwe in their next T20 assignment, although they were anything but comprehensive in the games they won, a worrying trait given Zimbabwe had not even qualified for the 2024 ICC World T20.

Next came a three-match T20I series against the co-hosts of the 2024 ICC World T20 in the USA. A Test-playing nation with plenty of experience should get it done against a team that hasn’t played much cricket together, right?

Not if you’re Bangladesh.

Bangladesh would fail to defend 60 runs in their final five overs of the first T20I and would follow it up with an unsuccessful run chase of 145 despite needing 21 runs from 19 balls with five wickets to spare.

However, Shanto and the Bangladesh dressing room did not panic over their results. Why? Because arguably for the first time in Bangladesh cricket, the men’s team had a skipper who was more focused on the process than the result leading into an ICC tournament.

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Najmul Hossain Shanto of Bangladesh celebrates a victory. (Photo by Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Sure, Bangladesh had great results leading into past ICC tournaments, but it led to a false sense of hype before it all came crashing down when it came to performing under the big lights.

Despite the constant scrutiny by the nation’s media and excessive trolling by social media users, Bangladesh headed into the ICC World T20 relatively calmly instead of Bangladesh Cricket Board president Nazmul Hassan Papon going off on a tangent criticising every player/team selection to the media like he has done in the past.

With the first game against time-out rivals Sri Lanka, it was crucial for Bangladesh to start their tournament well. After all, Pakistan had seen what a slow start can do in this edition of the ICC World T20. Sri Lanka had other ideas though, getting off to a flier, reaching 48 runs for the loss of one wicket after five overs.

Past Bangladesh skippers would panic and go for a defensive option to hope for a mistake. Not Shanto. He backed Mustafizur Rahman and leg spinner Rishad Hossain to fire in the middle overs, and boy did they fire. Hossain and Rahman tore apart the Lankan lineup, as the Lions limped to 9-124 in their allotted 20 overs.

Thanks to key contributions from Liton Das (36 off 39) and Towhid Hridoy (40 off 20), Bangladesh fortunately chased down 125 with two wickets to spare in another thrilling Bangladesh versus Sri Lanka modern day classic. Shanto backed his bowlers once again on an up and down New York surface against South Africa, but poor batting from the top order saw Bangladesh fail to chase down 114.

In a must-win game against the Netherlands, a much-needed half century from Al Hasan saw the Tigers set the Dutch a target of 160. At 3/111 halfway through the 15th over, the Netherlands were set for another win against Bangladesh in an ICC tournament.

Instead, Hossain triumphed with quality legspin, taking three wickets in his final nine balls as Bangladesh won by 25 runs. The batting woes would continue against associates Nepal, but the Bangladesh bowlers would do their job defending 106 with ease in a 21-run victory.

Fast bowlers and leg spinners are treated with the utmost disrespect in Bangladesh. If you’re a bowler who doesn’t bowl left arm off spin on turning pitches, chances are you are going to get bugger all overs to bowl in domestic cricket. Yet these two aspects have led to Bangladesh causing havoc with the ball in the 2024 ICC World T20, and it takes a brave captain to steer away from the conventional tactics in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh have been competitive in all of their games so far, rightfully earning their first Super Eight spot in the ICC World T20 in 17 years. They enter the second stage of the World T20 high on confidence and belief. And with momentum on Bangladesh’s side, anything is possible.

However, there is still a glaring problem that plagues Bangladesh, and Shanto will know that himself: a lack of top-order runs which has put pressure on the middle and lower order to do more work than required with the bat.

Shanto the skipper has stood up for Bangladesh so far in this tournament. Against three quality bowling attacks in the Super Eights, it is time for Shanto the batter to step up and make some much-needed runs for himself and for the nation.

If Shanto, Liton Das and Tanzid Hasan Tamim step up with the bat, Bangladesh and their fan-base will continue to have faith in their team. This is Najmul Hossain Shanto’s team. And boy has he brought back belief into the Bangladesh team after a dull period.

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