Bangladesh’s progress in specific areas in the batting haven’t been in evidence in the ongoing T20I series in Lahore, according to batting coach Neil McKenzie. The former South Africa batsman, who opted against touring Pakistan and has been working with the Test specialists in Dhaka instead, said the players must trust the “no fear” mantra that coach Russell Domingo has been trying to drill into them.
Bangladesh have already conceded the three-T20I series after losing the first two games. They batted first on both occasions and only managed 141 and 136. They hardly dominated any phase of the games, and failed to build any impetus in the middle overs, which seemed to have improved after McKenzie became the batting coach.
“There’s lot of inexperience in the squad at the moment. We knew that was going to be the case before we got there, but still it is disappointing,” McKenzie said. “I think we missed out on a good start the other day (in the first T20I). What’s been disappointing for me has been the intent. We have been working so hard in the last couple of years on rotation of strike, putting the bowler under pressure, where you are standing, making him bowl to where you want him to bowl, but I haven’t seen too much of those in the last T20s.
“We know how he can play but it’s also up to him to trust the guys around him. But the guys around him also have to be performing. When you have faith in the team and batting order, you can play a few more shots”
Neil McKenzie on Tamim Iqbal
“The intent, looking to be a little bit more hungry, really playing with that ‘no fear’ that Russell and everybody tries to instill in the players. It is human nature. You have a few young guys and some guys who are getting back. There’s a lot of pressure on the guys to perform and stay in the side, which is understandable, but hopefully they all understand that they are getting the backing from all the selectors and coach. They just have to go out there and play.”
McKenzie, who has been praised for bringing about a fresh approach to Bangladesh’s batting in limited-overs cricket, said that with so many top-order batsmen in the squad, Bangladesh don’t have the required experience and expertise in the middle order. Shakib Al Hasan is out of the picture, and the absence of Mushfiqur Rahim – who also opted against touring – is certainly a big factor, but with Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar and Afif Hossain all having made runs in the top-order, it might have been difficult for them to adjust to a new batting position.
“I think you have to look at the combination of who is playing,” he said. “Russell as a new coach is trying to look at some different combinations. I think at the moment we have too many batsman that bats at one, two and three. If you look around the squad, they are quality players but they are all top-order batters.
“It is a different skill to bat at No 4, 5 and 6. You are on nought, and all of a sudden you are facing a quality spinner. It is a different mindset. You have to know your game, try to rotate the strike and then go with your boundary options.”
McKenzie explained that the players should think selfishly on behalf of the team, so that they finish off games after getting set. “I think there’s an improvement [but] the turnover of players – by which I mean there’s been a lot of players in my tenure here – is still too high for my liking. It just looks like no one is jumping out of the box, we need someone like [Mohammad] Naim. He got a great eighty  in India. He struggled the other day but he got a 40-odd, but we need more consistent innings like that from the Bangladesh batsmen.
“There’s no doubt that Bangladesh is full of very talented cricketers, but we need a little bit more consistency. I want someone to be selfish in terms of winning games for the side. Not selfish for their own right. Selfish for not giving it away. If I have an 80, why can’t I follow it up with a hundred, 140 or 200?
“A little bit more hunger for that consistency. A lot of the time, the guys are happy to play the next game. If you get a 40 or 60. It is the wrong mentality. I want the guys to try to be the best in the world, or be the best Bangladesh batsman. I think that’s what we are trying to instill. We are making progress. But it has been a little bit frustrating.”
McKenzie also asked for patience about Tamim Iqbal, who has scored 39 and 65 in the two games, but wasn’t able to lift the scoring rate.
“I think you have to cut him a little bit of slack,” McKenzie said. “He has been one of Bangladesh’s best performers through the years. He is coming back from an injury and a few other things, so he is settling in. I think the positive thing for him is his runs under the belt. We all know what he can do, what he is capable of. You saw how he took it in the BPL final last year. I think we all want him to play more innings like that. He is probably one of Bangladesh’s most consistent players.
“We know how he can play but it’s also up to him to trust the guys around him. But the guys around him also have to be performing. When you have faith in the team and batting order, you can play a few more shots. I am glad to see him back. It seems he is in a good frame of mind. Hopefully it is the confidence he needs to kick-start and get him going, and turn those sixties into an eighty off 55 balls.
“He is an experienced player. He knows what he should be doing and how important he is for Bangladesh. It is a process, but we are looking for a little bit more fearless batting,” he said.