The start to the year was nothing short of extraordinary. Within three months, the world saw Bangladesh win a historic Test match in New Zealand and an ODI series in South Africa, both for the first time in their history. But the ship lost its direction midway. They hit a new low by losing to Zimbabwe in a T20I series for the first time and an ODI series for the first time in nine years.
And now it seems difficult for them to overcome the barrier of the group stage of the upcoming Asia Cup. The T20I format, anyway, has been the most difficult format for the Tigers. Since its inception, it hardly looked like they could ace this format. Bangladesh qualified for the final of two T20I tournaments - the 2016 Asia Cup and the 2018 Nidahas Trophy - but the consistency was never there.
Many believe that Bangladeshis are not born power-hitters and that's a reason why they aren't being able to crack this format. Even the players have said that a few times. Well, teams like India, Sri Lanka with players having almost similar physical attributes as Bangladeshis have won T20 World Cups. Actually, the problem lies somewhere else and if you look at Bangladesh's squad for the Asia Cup, you might very well find the answer.
Bangladesh recalled Sabbir Rahman after three years. Sabbir, of course, was Bangladesh's highest run-getter the last time the Asia Cup was held in T20I format. But it's been six years since then. Does his recent performance speak for himself?
The Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) was the last T20 tournament held in the country. Sabbir got a chance in only six out of 12 matches in the tournament and his average (18.16) and strike-rate (111.2) were below par.
He fared decently in the 50-over Dhaka Premier League (DPL) with an average of nearly 40 and a strike-rate in excess of 100. "Sabbir didn't do badly in the DPL. We've sent him to the West Indies with the A team and the experience will help him," said chief selector Minhajul Abedin on his inclusion.
But that's not the first instance of players performing in one format and getting opportunities in another. Take Anamul Haque for example. He had a record-breaking domestic 50-over season for which he was recalled to the squad for the tour to the Caribbean.
But in that tour, he played Tests and T20Is, but not ODIs. He had a fine BPL season but that wasn't enough for him to make the squad for the series against Afghanistan. What's evident from this is that the players are being selected even in Tests and T20Is based on their 50-over performances.
Bangladesh left out Shoriful Islam, who has been a regular feature in white-ball cricket for a while, and called up Ebadot Hossain. Minhajul said, "Ebadot did very well in the last BPL and we have selected him because of that." Now Ebadot played only five matches in that tournament and got six wickets. If it was his performance in the BPL that caught the selectors' eye, then why wasn't he called up in the last few series? It was actually his fine bowling spell on debut in the third ODI against Zimbabwe that prompted the selectors to give him a go.
Since 2021, Bangladesh have used 25 players in ODIs and 21 of them have featured in T20Is during this period. The four players who didn't play T20Is are Tamim Iqbal (already retired), Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Ebadot Hossain and Taijul Islam. Out of those three active players, two - Miraz and Ebadot - are there in the squad for the Asia Cup. It means that Bangladesh are using the same bunch of players for both ODIs and T20Is.
All-format players are fast becoming a thing of the past but not for Bangladesh. Here you will find a ticket for T20Is and Tests by performing in the 50-over tournaments. The only place where you can really showcase your T20 skills is the BPL which is likely to become the least sought-after T20 league for overseas players in near future. Domestic T20 tournaments have still not become a regular feature.
These are the symptoms of a deep-rooted problem and if players continue to be selected in one format based on the performance in others, the chances of success won't be very high.