In an era, where batsmen dominate the game, the margin of error for the bowling unit has decreased drastically. With king-sized bats, shorter outfields, two new balls and field restrictions coming into play, run-scoring has become easy, which made the need to play five specialist bowlers pivotal. The bowling side can hardly afford to step a foot wrong as batsmen in contemporary cricket look to attack and pounce on loose deliveries.

Almost most of the teams look to play five specialist bowlers or an all-rounder, who is effective with the ball in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and T20Is. Mediocrity has no place in contemporary cricket and a weakness is spotted and exploited relatively early these days. Playing five specialist bowlers eases off the pressure and gives the liberty to attack whereas the batting side is always under the pump and hardly has any breathing space.

Although playing six specialist batsmen puts pressure on the batting unit, but playing five bowlers will most of the times keep the scoring under check. And this is where an all-rounder plays a crucial role. Teams like India, England, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Australia are fortunate to have impactful all-rounders in their side. Players like Shakib Al Hasan, Ben Stokes, Hardik Pandya, Mitchell Santner, Chris Woakes, Mitchell Marsh, James Faulkner, Angelo Mathews and Moeen Ali are one of the bests in the business.

Bangladesh were thrashed by South Africa in the series opener at Diamond Oval a few days back. They lost the encounter by 10 wickets and were unable to put up a fight with the ball. South Africa gunned down the target of 279 with ease as Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock put up a record opening stand to see the side home. Bangladesh bowlers didn’t manage to chip a single wicket despite seven bowlers rolling their arms.

Bangladesh fielded three specialist bowlers excluding Shakib, and four all-rounders in the playing XI. Shakib would make it to the side solely through his bowling and is always a boon for the side to have. He is currently the best ODI all-rounder in the ICC rankings and it would be unjust to not call him a specialist.

Bangladesh’s pace battery hailed of Mashrafe Mortaza, Rubel Hossain and Taskin Ahmed while the all-rounders were Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Nasir Hossain and Mohammad Saifuddin. Barring Shakib, the other three bowlers had a terrible time with the bowl. Saifuddin, Mahmudullah and Nasir Hossain bowled 12 overs between them and gave away 86 runs.

It would be cruel to blame Bangladesh’s bowling alone; their batting didn’t get enough runs on the board and failed to exploit the conditions to the fullest. Barring Mushfiqur Rahim, who got a ton, most of the batsmen threw it away after good starts. But it was clearly evident that Bangladesh needed to add more firepower to their bowling than batting for the next game. Although Tamim Iqbal’s return to the playing XI was needed and obvious, but Bangladesh should have played a specialist bowler for second game.

At Boland Park it was a do-or-die encounter for Bangladesh and needed to go all guns blazing. They had enough firepower in their batting with Tamim back into the side, but Bangladesh could have gambled with a specialist bowler instead of any misfiring batsman. But Bangladesh didn’t make any change to their playing combination except Tamim in place of Saifuddin. In fact, they lost an option of a bowler in the form of Saifuddin.

Bangladesh’s bowling had the challenge to overcome against the dominant South African batting, which was bolstered by AB de Villiers’ return. Bangladesh won the toss and opted to field, but their bowlers once again failed to chip early wickets. Quinton de Kock and Amla got a steady start yet again and laid the foundation for a competitive total.

Bangladesh did well in chipping two wickets in quick succession, but all their hopes of clawing back into the game was shattered by De Villiers’ juggernaut. Bangladeshi bowlers ran out of options and had no clue about how to stop De Villiers, who was making an ODI comeback. He went on to score a match-defining 176 and was certainly unfortunate to not have scored a double ton, which looked quite achievable. Although Shakib and Rubel bowled well, but Taskin’s inexperience saw him going for runs. Mortaza was the most expensive bowler, conceding 82 from his 10 overs.

Bangladesh had Mahmudullah, Nasir Hossain and Sabbir Rahman to share the overs of a fifth bowler. Although Nasir did well in not leaking runs, but other two didn’t make any impact. Part-timers like Nasir, Mahmudullah and Sabbir can be an added advantage, but cannot be banked upon to get 10 fruitful overs. Also, playing a specialist bowler will only add depth and stability to the line-up with the presence of other part-timers. For instance, Kedar Jadhav and Rohit Sharma often put in the hard yards for India, but they do have five other impactful bowlers.


Bangladesh certainly missed out a trick by not playing a specialist bowler. South Africa set a target of 354 for the visitors to chase. The conditions were conducive for batting, but chasing such a gigantic target is always a challenge. South Africa won the game by 104 runs and clinched the three-match series with a game to go. Although the series is a dead rubber for Bangladesh, but they would look to end the series on a winning note and to do so, they certainly need to add more firepower to their bowling.

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