Sports, Cricket

Taskin expected to pick up Pace in India match

Published : 17 Oct 2023 09:50 PM
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As Bangladesh gear up to face India in Pune in their fourth match of the 2023 World Cup, there are two things that they will be keenly looking at: what speeds Taskin Ahmed clocks, and what lengths he hits.

With just two wickets in three games at an average of 63 and an economy rate of 6.30, Taskin has been completely off-colour so far in the World Cup. His pace has been down and his lengths short, an issue that has been recognised both by the team management and his bowling coaches.

Arguably one of Bangladesh's most improved bowlers in the last few years, Taskin has delivered with such consistency that the rest of the bowling attack - fast bowlers and spinners - has operated with a certain degree of comfort. But having started off the World Cup sedately, his fellow fast-bowling colleagues Mustafizur Rahman and Shoriful Islam have had to pick up the pace so to speak, while captain Shakib Al Hasan has provided most of the breakthroughs.

Just the fact that Taskin hasn't bowled his full quota of ten overs in any of the three matches comes as a surprise given his recent stature in the attack. He came into the World Cup as Bangladesh'sleading wicket-taker in ODIs in 2023, with 21 strikes in ten innings at 16.85 following up on a strong 2022 and 2021, where he was among the wickets consistently.

Taskin's importance to the national team can be underlined by the fact that the BCB, fearing any risk of injuries, denied him the NOC to participate in the IPL last year and two more T20 franchise tournaments this year.

But things haven't come together for the 28-year-old in the World Cup thus far. The key to that could be in his lengths.

Before the start of the tournament, 60.47% of Taskin's deliveries in the first powerplay in 2023 pitched outside off either on a length, short of a good length or on a full length. But in the World Cup, Taskin hasn't bowled enough in the first powerplay, and in the little that he has, his short balls outside off stump have been dealt with easily.

Khaled Mahmud, Bangladesh's team director, said that they have had a discussion with Taskin regarding the drop in pace and the shortened lengths.

"We have spoken about it, and Taskin is already working on it," Mahmud said. "It will be fixed. We have been telling him this. I have a video on the phone. I spoke to him, but Allan [Donald, the bowling coach] takes care of it. We had a plan to bowl short against some teams. But he will come back, I am sure. The pace too was down. I think there was a bit of overwork, so we have given them a break. We want them to come back refreshed."

When it comes to the game against India, Taskin should certainly avoid going short to Rohit Sharma. The India captain has already hammered five sixes against seven short balls in the World Cup, striking at over 400. And it is something Taskin knows all too well. Rohit has a strike rate of 200 against Taskin's short deliveries in ODIs. However, the same set of data also shows that Rohit has a hard time getting Taskin away when the bowler sticks to length balls.

Ultimately, it is any length that's not too short where Taskin has usually succeeded. It is also true that Bangladesh targeted the Afghanistan batters with quick short balls in the first game, which ultimately helped Shoriful and Mustafizur. It wasn't a tactic they used against England and New Zealand, though.

Taskin's most effective wicket-taking delivery since the start of 2021 has been the one that holds its length without any movement, bowled at times with the wobble seam. That delivery has fetched him 28 wickets at an average of 26.89, while the offcutter has given him ten wickets at 19.9 during the same period. But Taskin hasn't been able to do much damage with either type of delivery in the World Cup.

Mahbub Ali Zaki, the fast-bowling coach who helped Taskin through two tough periods in the last seven years, said that he did notice the drop in pace, but expects Taskin to bounce back quickly.

"I have been following Taskin, definitely," Zaki said. "The pace seems to be slightly down. If you compare his bowling in the World Cup with the New Zealand series last year, I feel that the intent is missing. But when you have worked with a top-class player like Taskin, you will have the highest expectation. He will have his pace up. He will beat their bat. He will take wickets. That's what we can expect from them."