More faith has to be placed on Bangladesh's young pace bowlers if the best is to be brought out of them, Courtney Walsh has said. Walsh, who last week completed two years as Bangladesh's fast-bowling coach, said the tendency to drop a pace bowler after one bad performance has hampered the team's progress in international cricket.
Walsh took over after Heath Streak had completed exactly two years as the pace bowling coach in 2016. The one constant across both coach's reigns has been Mashrafe Mortaza leading the ODI attack superbly. The output of the Test pace attack, however, has deteriorated.
During Streak's tenure, Bangladesh's fast bowlers averaged 44.73 in Test cricket and took a wicket every 90.8 balls. Under Walsh, their strike rate has been slightly better (87.5) but their average is significantly worse, at 53.66.
Walsh has acknowledged that more work needs to be done.
"It is still a work in progress," Walsh said. "There is a lot of youngsters coming through. If they don't get selected to play, you won't know what they are. It is one of the things we have to look at a little bit more. We can't be too afraid to give the youngsters a chance to express themselves a bit more. If they are kept waiting in the wings, they will never get a chance to play.
"The more you play the best chance you will get to learn. You will get more experience by playing in the middle. Sometimes you have to throw these youngsters in the deep to see what they are made of. But if you keep protecting them and say they are not ready, they might never get ready. Sometimes you have to expose talent, you have to give them a chance."
Walsh's first experience of seeing the pace bowlers getting few opportunities came as early as his first Test series in October 2016, when Bangladesh prepared spin-friendly tracks in Chittagong and Dhaka against England. Shafiul Islam and newcomer Kamrul Islam Rabbi only bowled 31 overs between them in the Test series, picking up one wicket, while the debutant offspinner Mehidy Hasan Miraz took 19 wickets.
The fast bowlers have especially struggled outside the subcontinent, where they have had to bear the bulk of the bowling workload. In New Zealand, they returned a combined average of 63.54. In South Africa, Mustafizur, Shafiul, Taskin Ahmed, Rubel Hossain and Subashis Roy combined to average 81.11.
In helpful conditions in the West Indies, the quicks averaged 36.62, but that figure must be viewed against the host seamers' average of 11.31. Rabbi, Rubel and newcomer Abu Jayed were no match for Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder and Miguel Cummins, who led West Indies to a 2-0 series win.
Walsh said giving the young quicks a longer stretch of matches could give them more confidence and help them build their skillsets.
"I don't think they lack the hunger," he said. "They haven't been given that opportunity to play consistently. It is where the difference might come from. Some of the youngsters we have, they need to get a good run. Not just one or two games and then get dropped. You can have good and bad matches.
"I have seen that as soon as you have a bad game, everyone wants you to be dropped. It is not going to help a youngster.
"All of us can have a bad game, and when that happens, we need to be given a chance to redeem yourself. It is a case of striking the right balance. Youngsters are keen and want to perform at the highest level. They just need to be given a chance."
Walsh praised Mashrafe for continuing to use his experience to lead the ODI attack, having taken 41 wickets at 31.41 in the last two years. Rubel and Mustafizur too have been more comfortable in ODIs. Taskin's stocks have declined, meanwhile, and Al-Amin Hossain, a fairly frequent limited-overs participant under Streak, has not featured under Walsh.
"Mash's experience and skillset is much different and much better than the other guys," Walsh said. "Experience has been carrying him through but he was always a very good fast bowler. If he wasn't injured, he'd be playing Test cricket. The first time I saw him, I told him that he was good enough to play Test matches.
"He is a high-class fast bowler for Bangladesh for a number of years. It is up to the youngsters now to have that hunger. Mash takes pride in his performance. It is the big difference. He wants to do well and compete, and that's what we need."
Bangladesh's immediate assignment is the Asia Cup, and Walsh hoped the likes of Mashrafe, Mustafizur, Rubel and Abu Hider would be able to adapt quickly to conditions in the UAE.
"I don't think it will be perfect for pacers in the Asia Cup," he said. "I think the wickets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are normally pretty flat and docile. Some are expecting the pacers will adapt and be able to use their variations.
"Whenever the bowlers do well in one-day cricket, we have to give them the credit because it is not easy to bowl in these good batting wickets."
Bangladesh will depart for Dubai on September 9.