Published: October 23, 2010
Mohammad Isam Mahbubul Alam, an experienced off-spinner from Rajshahi, said a season or two ago that whenever his captain would hand him the ball during the Powerplay restrictions, his face would break into a smile. Not a rueful one but it was genuine happiness. Mahbubul, better known as Mustakim, really loves to bowl when the Powerplay is on.
His explanation, due to his confident nature, was simple: with the field up and a maximum of three fielders outside the 30-yard circle, the singles get cut off as the batsmen wouldn’t risk a run-out with six to seven fielders inside the circle. That would force them to look for boundaries and try lofted shots, giving the bowler every chance of picking up wickets.
Not surprisingly, it is a common sentiment among bowlers (especially those who back themselves to do the job). In domestic one-day cricket, batsmen are less inclined to take risks for a number of reasons that vary from the prevailing club culture to the batsman’s effort to secure his immediate future in the team.
Ever since the option of batting Powerplay became available, mid-level clubs decided that it was best not to mess with it while the top clubs are still having trouble making full use of it. From the batsmen’s point of view, taking ‘unnecessary’ risks would risk his future in the team and frankly, who would want the official barking at him after getting out?
It seems that this defensive mindset has made its way to the Tigers dressing-room and by the looks of it, is here to stay. No matter what happens, they seem to be happy keeping the batting Powerplay “for later use”, as if they will bash 80 or 90 runs from the last five overs. But the reality is that they hardly ever make full use of it and sometimes, end up being forced to take it. There are also occasions that the Tigers have gone through a one-day win without taking the batting Powerplay. As coach Jamie Siddons said during the series, the cricket played in the Powerplay (both batting and bowling) was one of his main concerns apart from his batsmen’s strike-rate.
Evidently, these two factors – Powerplay and strike-rate — are closely related and if one is to explain the failings of the Tigers during the five-over field restrictions designed as a massive advantage to the batsmen, it is easy to point towards the strike-rates.
Mashrafe Bin Mortaza is on top of Bangladesh’s all-time list of highest strike-rates, scoring his runs at 86.03 per 100 balls while the second in that list is Aftab Ahmed (83.04). Since Mashrafe and Aftab are the only players to score at a strike-rate of above 80, it can be used as a standard for batsmen from Bangladesh while the world-standard would definitely be above 95.
Even Mohammad Rafique, famous for his big-hitting, struck at 77.1 per hundred balls. But definitely, he provided the impetus late in the innings and in the course of his 106 one-day innings for Bangladesh between 1995 and 2007, Rafique kept a strike-rate of over 80 in 36 outings and in 22 innings, it was above the 100-mark. Even more impressive is the fact that out of his eleven innings that was above 30 runs, his strike-rate dipped below 100 only three times.
Sadly, he was never around when the Powerplay was a batting team’s option (it became a rule in October 2008) because Rafique would have really enjoyed that.
But those who could enjoy this have miserably failed to do so. Mashrafe has certainly seen his batting stocks fall over the years and since Rafique’s retirement when he should have taken the mantle as the late-order hitter, he maintained a 72.52 strike-rate with a highest score of 38.
Some would think that since Mashrafe was never a genuine batsmen, the onus would fall on the likes of Naeem Islam and Mahmudullah Riyad but the pair has also not done much apart from a good knock here and there. With a career strike-rate of 64.2 and 68.2 respectively, Bangladesh don’t exactly have the best option for lower-order hitting but neither Naeem nor Riyad are bashers. They are genuine top and middle-order batsmen who are now asked to adopt a different game that is probably getting the better of them.
Naeem has always had the knack of hitting the big ones but as a proper batsman, the right-hander is sometimes all or nothing. Out of his top three scores in one-day cricket, his strike-rate has been above 80 just once, while Riyad has batted 40 times in the lower-order and 10 times above that.
It is also true that some of their effort to rebuild after the top-order has collapsed would hurt their overall strike-rate, but now things have changed somewhat. Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes and Shakib Al Hasan have almost regularly provided a good platform for those who bat in the last ten overs, the time when Bangladesh usually take their Powerplay.
Some say that it is important to have the right attitude to bat in the slog overs. Batsmen have to be unselfish and must have the adventurous spirit in them to throw the bat around, and at the same time, not think about giving away their wicket. Definitely it is hard for batsmen trying to cement a place in the team to have that sort of attitude so it falls on the tail-enders but Abdur Razzak, Shafiul Islam and Sohrawardi Shuvo all have strike-rate below the 80 mark.
A way out of this would be for the Tigers think-tank to give the batsmen assurance that they would be continued for a while even if they fail to hit out in the late overs.
The best place to make a new start to the Powerplay and strike-rate philosophy would be the National Cricket League one-dayers and it is hoped that the Tigers would be the ones taking the initiative.