New Delhi: “How do you choose one good shot out of so many?” commentator Harsha Bhogle exclaimed, while batting legends Sunil Gavaskar and Shane Watson watched in awe as Bangladeshi opener Litton Kumer Das lined up each member of India’s potent pace attack and sent their deliveries packing around the Adelaide Oval Wednesday.
Chasing a target of 185 in order to help his team stay alive for semifinal contention at the ongoing Men’s T20 World Cup, Litton’s efforts were halted first by the rain and then by a pinpoint direct hit from KL Rahul, leaving him well short of the non-striker’s crease.
By this time, Das had already notched up one of the fastest half-centuries by a Bangladeshi player in T20 internationals. He also set the perfect platform for what should have been a historic win for Bangladesh over regional rivals India.
Bangladesh lost the match by 5 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method, but Das reminded the cricketing world of his batting abilities, because there is more to his game than just his ball striking abilities in cricket’s shortest format.
Born on 13 October, 1994 to a Bengali Hindu family at Dinajpur, near Bangladesh’s northwestern border with India, Das made his first class debut as a teenager, opening the batting for Rangpur Division in 2011 and featured in Bangladesh’s national level under-19 squads in the 2012 and 2014 under-19 World Cups.
Touted as a long-term wicketkeeping prospect and eventually taking the glovework reins from veteran Mushfiqur Rahim, Das made his international debut in June 2015. This opportunity came on the back of a superlative domestic season as well as Bangladesh’s efforts to bring in a new generation of cricketers after the conclusion of a relatively successful ODI World Cup cycle that year.
The rigours and challenges of international cricket appeared to be beyond Das at first, as he averaged well below 30 in Tests from 2015 to 2019 and struggled for consistency in white ball cricket for much of that period.
However, the journey into his prime years and the long scheduling gap during the Covid-19 pandemic appeared to have given him the time and learnings needed to adapt his game for the highest level.
In the past two years, Das has come out all guns blazing, and across formats, averaging between 45 and 50 in Tests between 2021 and 2022, scoring 500 runs from 10 One Day Internationals in 2022, and striking at over 140 in T20 internationals this year.
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‘Litton’s Test cricket improvement’
Das’s rise, however, has come largely under the radar, given that Bangladesh is historically the worst of the nine World Test Championship sides, with its only win in the 2021-23 cycle being a one away to New Zealand in January.
Similarly, Bangladesh as a team has been very good but not the best results-wise during the 2020-23 ODI Super League and is seen as a fundamentally flawed side for the ever-evolving modern age of T20 cricket.
As such, the sole individual to have broken down Das’s improvement as a cricketer, especially in red ball cricket, is UK-based Australian journalist and YouTuber Jarrod Kimber.
In a video essay titled ‘Most Improved Player Awards 2020-22′, Kimber examined how Litton scored above 50 in over half of his 13 Tests and was among 9 players to score over 1,000 runs in this two-year span.
“For [Litton] personally, he made the majority of his career runs during this period, despite the fact that he’d only played 13 of his 33 Tests in this period. It is undeniable that [Litton Das] has improved…He has doubled his average from before,” Kimber explained.
These figures reflect Das’s match-winning knocks of 86 in Mount Manganui and 95 in Harare, both of which were against the run of play.
“In our period, [Litton] only has four scores in single digits, which is a remarkable consistent run…a man who had really no imprint on the Test game before this period, who made a great knock in Zimbabwe, but more important than that, was the backbone of Bangladesh’s batting, which was an incredible series result for him…it’s been a great 2 years for Litton Das, the 2022 Most Improved Test Player,” Kimber concluded.
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