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Why Bangladesh trail Afghanistan on the T20 circuit

18 Jul 2020 CricBuzz

Eighteen Bangladesh players threw their hat in the ring for a CPL gig recently. Apart from Tamim, Mahmudullah, Mustafizur - who also eventually had to turn down the offers - none of the others attracted any interest from the franchises. Afghanistan's players, on the other hand, made quite a splash in the draft. Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi are now T20 stars. Qais Ahmed, seamer Naveen-ul-Haq, exciting keeper-bat Rahmnaullah Gurbaz and 15-year-old Noor Ahmad all found takers for the 2020 season.

It is the most recent affirmation of a pattern that's been in vogue for a while now: Afghanistan's players are hotter prospects than Bangladesh's in T20 leagues around the world.

While there are multiple factors at play, including those of player availability and team demands, there is also the question of a specialised T20 skillset and Afghanistan are usurping Bangladesh on that scale.

Afghanistan's Director of Cricket Andy Moles believes that in the present context, his charges are all T20 match winners. "Afghan players are proving to be able to be match winners with bat and ball," Moles told Cricbuzz. "We are seeing the growth of players from an outstanding talent base and confidence is growing in their ability. They are just ultra positive in everything they do when it comes to cricket," he added.

Bangladesh's newest bugbear - a failure to produce mystery spinners, a batsman with 140 strike-rates or pace bowler capable of bowling 140 kmph - is understood to have hit them hard on the T20 circuit as well. The fact that uncapped 15-year-old Afghanistan spin sensation Noor was picked in the CPL only goes to highlight the widening gap in the T20 nurturing bed of the two countries.

According to seasoned BPL coach Mohammad Salahuddin, known to mentor a lot of national cricketers, Afghanistan's bowlers are thriving because of their advanced skills from having adapted by bowling on lifeless wickets back home.

"Most of the Afghanistan's players playing in the franchise-based competition are bowlers and not batsmen," Salahuddin told Cricbuzz. "And the bowlers who are getting to play they have such skill that can release the pressure of the team as they either pick wickets or hold on the opposing batsmen. Not like our normal action bowlers, they are difficult bowlers.

"What I personally feel is that their bowlers learn such bowling because of their wicket back home. I think probably their wickets are flat and without good skills maybe it is difficult to survive for them. So maybe that's why they are nurtured like that," he said.

Salahuddin believes orthodoxy too could come in the way of T20 success for Bangladesh's cricketers. "To be honest our bowlers are not in that league. Our bowlers are normally orthodox, and we don't have such a pacer who can bowl at 140 or above. So we don't get the chance. Mustafizur had the demand because he had some quality with his skill, but others don't have that.

"If we are talking about spin that we must admit that we are very simple. Batsmen can pick easily. There is nothing new. Or they don't have enough variations, so they don't get the chance. They [Afghanistan] have many useful players for T20 and you cannot deny that some of them are really much ahead of us in their respective areas," he noted.

With regards to batting, Salahuddin blames the lack of power-hitting ability as a major reason why his compatriots are not sought in the T20 market. "We don't have enough power hitting ability. That's the main reason. We cannot hit so hard and so in the BPL they bring the top order players who can do that," he said.

"And we don't have players who can bat down orders - at 5, 6 or 7 positions - who have the ability to finish the match. We don't have those attributes like physical power and all. That's the big problem. So if anyone gets to play in those leagues then it will be someone from top order. But we don't have those players to compete in top orders [as they don't bat with a strike-rate of 140].

"I think our players need to learn power hitting. Only Mahmudullah has the power hitting skill. He is tall and can play at back and finish the game. I think if he had given more priority on his bowling then he might be used as a package. But I would say it is still possible with his batting but if he had that consistency then he would have more chances. But if he had given more preference to his bowling he would have been an ideal package because any team would like to have more all-rounder as it helps to have balance," he said.

However, Salahuddin also added that Mustafizur was not a spent force as many would like to believe and tipped him for a strong future in domestic T20 competitions if he can put his head down and develop his craft.

"He has that dedication (effort). It's true, his Injury made a huge impact. And another thing people don't understand - a player's performance cannot improve constantly. It won't keep on growing. There will be some blocks where they get stuck. We say it 'play to stay' stage in coaching jargon.

"In that stage players don't lose desire to improve their ability. But actually they stay at that stage before going to the next level. A player's career cannot rise like a bamboo and even in bamboo it's not smooth everywhere. So a player's improvement will stop for a while at every level. Then he will try again to reach another level. And then he will stop again. What we normally do is, when they get stopped, we eliminate them. It happens automatically. Performance never improves consistently," he said,

"For example, a batsman can play drive shots and pull shots. I can make runs with these shots then one day that batsman gets doomed, because he doesn't have any other option at hand. Then when he tries again he learns like how to play square cuts, flick shots. When he reaches the next level he learns something more. This is how it works.

"This is the case with Mustafizur - just because he is not performing like the way he used to doesn't imply he is finished rather he is in the 'play-to-stay' zone. I am confident he will again make a comeback considering the amount of hunger I have seen in him. I am not sure whether it will by adding variations or pace but what I have seen I have seen, he has something inside. So you cannot say he won't make it to the IPL again. But for others it will be a very tough job considering they have to improve drastically to survive in that cut-throat world called IPL," he added.

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