Why Bangladesh should play more in Sylhet and Chattogram

With the ODI World Cup being held in India later this year, Bangladesh has moved from the slow, low pitches of Dhaka to the sportier ones of Sylhet and Chattogram in preparation for the tournament. After the ODI series’ 2-0 win over Ireland in Sylhet, the city’s first white ball games in three years, the T20I series will be played in Chattogram, where Bangladesh already hosted an ODI and T20I against earlier this month England played .

Sylhet and Chattogram are known for offering the best batting conditions in a country that has had the lowest scoring rate in T20Is for the past four years. Bangladesh’s ODI scoring rate is also in the bottom half of countries that hosted at least 40 innings over the same period.

This is mainly due to the pitches at Shere Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka, which are not usually suitable for batting or pace bowling. The BCB considers this venue its stronghold and especially in the last seven years only weirdos have thrived here.

However, the pitches in Chattogram provided relief for the batters and aided in stroke play. As for Sylhet, it provided pace and bounce, helping both the fast bowlers and batsmen. In fact, the Bangladesh team got almost everything they wanted in the Sylhet conditions last week.

Her 349 for 6 and 338 for 8 in the first two ODIs are now her highest totals in this format. Bangladesh scored such big totals despite the ball moving and bouncing a lot during the first power play in both games. After repelling the early movement and jump, players like Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, Litton Das, Najmul Hossain Shanto and Towhid Hridoy conceded with quick shots and big partnerships.

Captain Tamim Iqbal said Bangladesh is willing to take the risk of giving Irish bowlers a little familiarity in return for the opportunity to continue playing on sports fields. He also said they are trying to stick to that plan, with preparation for the ODI World Cup in India being their top priority.

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“I said during the England series that we will be playing on these wickets in the near future,” said Tamim. “That one ODI in Chattogram was a step. There was a lot of live grass on that wicket. We don’t usually play much on grassy wickets. But as there is a World Cup later this year and series in different conditions we decided to play on that type of wicket. Remember that on those wickets it will be an even fight at home too. The opponent’s tempo attack is familiar with such conditions. But we accepted the challenge and the players responded exceptionally well.”

Bangladesh’s fast bowlers have also impressed on these courses. They recorded 16 of the 20 wickets that came in the two games completed. Her average of 10.93 is her best as a collective under home conditions.

Allan Donald, Bangladesh fast bowling coach, was particularly enthusiastic about the courses in Sylhet and said they even reminded him of those in South Africa.

“The curator here has produced a belter from a wicket,” he said. “It’s a wicket that has more pace and bounce. Good consistent carry. It puts the quicks right in. Batters have been piling up on the runs too. The pitches here are great preparation for that [three ODIs against Ireland in] Chelmsford in May.

“There we will get the same kind of wickets where the ball comes down. It doesn’t turn much. It’s a great preparation for the next series, which is about points. For me it’s almost like a South African kind of surface , where it matters. It glides even better at night when dew is around. It accelerates. It allows for good batting play. Getting in here will need to fill your boots.

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Donald also went on to explain why Bangladesh should play in Sylhet more regularly. He reckoned the pitches in India couldn’t help the spinners much, which he witnessed during the last 50-over World Cup in the country in 2011. Donald was then New Zealand’s fast bowling coach.

“I was at the 2011 World Cup in India,” said Donald. “I can tell you not many wickets were turned at the World Cup. So we have to play on wickets like [Sylhet], so that you do not have to change the attitude and mentality. the gates [in India] will be like here. They are all very good playing fields made for high scores.

“From here to Chelmsford [the home series against] Afghanistan and New Zealand and then the Asia Cup. The gates in Pakistan will be absolutely sharp so we know our approach. The margins will be fine at the World Cup.”

Playing Turners in Dhaka will not be ideal preparation for the World Cup in India. It wasn’t 2021 when they beat Australia and New Zealand 4-1 and 3-2 at home but went to the subsequent T20 World Cup and lost all Super 12 games in UAE.

Bangladesh’s obsession with Shere Bangla National Stadium is not new. It always comes at a price. Bangladesh’s battling struggles at home and abroad since 2016 have a lot to do with the amount of cricket they play in Dhaka. Not only are most of Bangladesh’s international matches played here, but most of the BPL matches are also played here.

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A move from Dhaka to Sylhet and Chattogram makes sense at least for 2023. Bangladesh will host Ireland for the one-off Test in Dhaka, but later in the year and ahead of the World Cup in October it will also host Afghanistan (in June and July) and New Zealand (in September).

Most of these are white ball games, so Sylhet and Chattogram will be back. The two pitches are relatively unused at other times while the Shere Bangla National Stadium hosts many national one-day matches. It is not advisable to play on overused pitches, especially in the run-up to a World Cup, so Bangladesh need to make wise decisions.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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