Afghan spinners toy with Tigers

Atif Azam

25 June, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Did Afghanistan’s spinners got into the head of Bangladesh batters? The batting approach of the top-order certainly suggest it as they never showed any intent to counter-attack the Afghan spin trio- Rashid Khan, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Mohammad Nabi when they came to bat at Southampton on Monday.

Changing the opening pair of Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar only validated the fact that Tigers were losing their sleep over turn and bounce that they were expected to receive from the Afghanistan slow bowlers.

While Bangladesh posted over 300 runs against South Africa, West Indies and Australia they managed to score only 262 runs against Afghanistan. 

In ICC World Cup 2019, in first six matches, Bangladesh team opened their innings with Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar, both are left handed batsman and they looked to be serving the purpose despite both being left-handed.

Soumya, who is yet to flourish according to his potential did give Bangladesh some positive start and his early blast is believed to have played a big part in the mind of the batsmen in the dressing room as there was no fear in his mind regarding the opposition bowlers and the wicket despite facing some of the best bowling attacks of the world.

Rhodes admitted that they were not taking anything for granted against the Afghan spinners.

“I think the whole world respects Rashid Khan. He’s a wonderful bowler. I know he went for plenty of runs against (Eoin) Morgan’s England, but that was just one of those days for him. Generally, he’s very, very aggressive and tight at the same time, so a quality bowler,” Rhodes said.

Alongside Rashid, Afghanistan’s other two spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi also dazzled with cherry. Even the part time spinner Rahmat Shah bowled superbly.

But Rhodes ensured that Tigers will come up their best without fearing Afghan bowlers.

“Then the other two spinners namely (Mohammad) Nabi and Mujeeb (ur Rahman) are quality bowlers. We really do respect them, but we don’t fear them. A lot of the lads have grown up playing on spinning wickets. So they’ve faced a lot of spin bowlers, but we’ll respect them because they’re top international bowlers,” he said.

Knowing that Afghanistan will likely open with their slow bowlers, Bangladesh changed the opening pair as they replaced Liton Kumar Das at the top of the order.

The reason behind the ploy is that generally off-spinners are easily handled by right hand batsmen while it is not the case when two left-handed batsmen are batting in the middle.

If that was the case then Bangladesh should have promoted Mushfiqur Rahim at number three when Liton departed instead of Shakib Al Hasan and as they did not take this route it only implied that they took a very impulsive decision by changing the opening pair considering they felt it will not serve their purpose by sending two left-handed opener, who had been pretty consistent in the recent past.

Liton got out at just 16 runs and as a result the openers failed to give a good start for Tigers but what was more injurious to Tigers’ prospects that the whole batting line-up had to be reorganised due to this decision which was largely based on a threat expected to be posed by the Afghanistan spinners.

Another issue also raised quite a few eyebrows when Bangladesh’s opener Tamim Iqbal showed that he failed to remove the mental block as he opted not to face the opening delivery against Afghanistan.

Tamim always opens the innings for Bangladesh and likes to face the first ball of the innings but against Afghanistan he was not seen doing so raising questions about whether he is still carrying the mental phobia against Mujeeb who apparently looked to be playing on his mind in the recent past.

During the three-match T20 series between Bangladesh and Afghanistan in 2018, Tamim was also on the non-striking end matches after young off-spin prodigy Mujeeb ur Rahman removed him with his first delivery in the three-match series opener.

In the first match, the right-arm off-break bowler preyed Tamim with LBW on the first delivery of the innings as the opener as he opted to face the first ball like he always does and surprisingly Tamim opted not to face the opening delivery in the following matches.

Liton Kumar Das opted to face the opening deliveries in the remaining two matches while Mujeeb removed Tamim in his second over during the last match of the tournament eventually it turned out to be a talking point in the country’s cricketing fraternity whether the experienced left-handed opener have any mental fear of Mujeeb.

The issue looked to have been done and dusted until Monday but somehow again resurfaced after Tamim opted not to take the strike against Afghanistan and the way he played Mujeeb certainly validated that he had some physiological issues against the spinners as he looked to be over cautious.

Though Mujeeb did not remove him in the end as Mohammad Nabi bowled him for 53-ball 36 runs it can well be said that Tamim was feeling the heat in the middle and his inability to hit any fours against Mujeeb can well be a major reason behind it.

Tamim, who hit 4 boundaries, hit the last one against Nabi and the Afghans made an excellent comeback as bowled him with his next delivery by denying him the pace as Nabi bowled it with a slight round-arm action from wide of the crease, Tamim’s adrenaline rush didn’t allow him to settle for the lack of pace and he lost his off-stump with an ill-timed punch-drive.