There's no doubt about Liton Das' batting talent, but after four years of representing Bangladesh (he was dropped for nearly two of those), he still averages under 25 in every format and has only one international hundred to his name. He dazzled with a 69-ball unbeaten 94 against West Indies at the 2019 World Cup, but the big scores have been few and far between. In this interview, conducted during the Bangladesh Premier League, where he has made three fifties in 13 matches for Rajshahi Royals, Das talks about how his approach to batting has changed over the last year.
Do you feel you are batting better in this season of the BPL?
I think I'm slightly more consistent in this BPL than in previous editions, but I can't convert the big scores. I struggled to make big scores in the past but I had been hoping to play better cricket this time around. If I take calculated risks, be a little more patient, I will have more chance to be successful.
You have forged the tournament's best partnership, opening with Afif Hossain.
I am enjoying the partnership with Afif. He starts off in an attacking mode, which eases the pressure off me. I may get ten off ten balls while Afif reaches 15, 17 or 22 off his first ten. I can catch up from that point. When he struggles, I try to cover the scoring. It's important in partnerships that both of us are reading the situation perfectly.
Have you made any significant adjustment to your T20 batting style?
In the last three BPL seasons, I thought the only thing to do in T20s is to hit out. I'd end up taking 17 or 18 runs in an over but also get out in the same over. I think my maturity is better now. I have figured out that I can score runs even if I bat normally. I can have more scoring opportunities in the Powerplay if I just time the ball properly.
Do people have high expectations of you or do you have high expectations of yourself?
I don't know what people expect of me. Look, I have made a lot of runs in domestic cricket but I haven't played the way I wanted to at the international level. I often get out between 20 and 25.
I have my own expectations too. Why am I not able to perform at the international level the way I have done in domestic cricket? People, as a result of those runs, have expectations of me.
Do you think the difference between domestic and international is too big?
When I was making my debut, I didn't give much thought to these things. I was continuously performing and it got me into the team. When a player keeps performing, he doesn't really have to think about how the runs are coming or how to make runs, how to face certain bowlers or how to stay in the wicket to make more runs. These things only occur to you when you are struggling on the pitch.
I faced it between 2015 and 2017 [when he was dropped from the Bangladesh side]. I am still in a bit of a struggle, but now I know that I can score runs if I am at the wicket. Two big knocks in the recent past have given me confidence. I understand the importance of playing cricket with calculated risk. Sometimes while in the flow, I try to play something too big that puts me on the back foot. The fewer mistakes like this I make, the more successful I can be in every format.
Have you looked to repeat what you did during your World Cup innings against West Indies?
Since the tri-series in Ireland [in May] and then the World Cup, I did the exact opposite of the processes I had been following as a batsman all along. While working with Neil [McKenzie, Bangladesh's batting consultant], I realised what I have to do to play at the international level. I have realised that I cannot survive if I play like I did at the domestic level. I talk a lot with Neil.
I don't think many will have noticed but I cut out a lot of shots during the World Cup and continued curbing them at the BPL. I have thought long and hard about the fact that a batsman doesn't need to play a lot of shots to score runs. You can score runs with only a few shots when you are 100% sure it will bring you success.
There was all sorts of pressure on you during your match-winning 189-run partnership with Shakib Al Hasan against West Indies in the World Cup, including having to bat out of position at No. 5. What did you make of it all?
Every cricketer's dream is to play the World Cup, and it was my first match. I didn't think much about getting out in a certain way, which is sometimes how you think when you are under a lot of pressure. I was batting with Shakib bhai, and whatever pressure I felt evaporated quickly. He was smashing some really good fast bowlers, so you immediately feel that things must be easy.
There are situations when you go out to bat but the batsman at the other end is shaky. Normal deliveries look challenging. But there are some batsmen who make good balls look bad, and you, at the other end, start feeling comfortable. Shakib bhai made me feel this way - that I can even play out a few dot balls despite chasing such a big total.
You hit three consecutive sixes off Shannon Gabriel.
I have never forced myself into these things even when I have been in full flow. I have tried to play according to the situation. Leading up to that over, Shakib bhai had been telling me that the ground is quite small and they have pace and bounce in their bowling. But I didn't have the confidence to clear the boundary.
The first six [off Gabriel] was instinctive. I saw it and I went for it. When he was running in for the second ball, I knew he would try to hit my blockhole, as he had bowled a bouncer in the first ball. I hit him straight. When it went for six again, I was sure he was going bowl another bouncer. He did, and I moved into the line of the ball and hooked him. Luckily, all three went for sixes (laughs).
After that innings, I felt better. I started well in the rest of the tournament too. But as I said before, sometimes confidence forces you to make mistakes. I got out to wrong shots in the remaining four innings [of the World Cup]. I gave [my wicket] away.
I think I can adapt better in international cricket, have enough courage. I have now faced the likes of Mitchell Starc, who I hadn't faced before. I think every batsman feels a little nervous facing a top bowler for the first time, whether it is a fast bowler or spinner, but once you have dealt with the bowler, you start gaining courage.
This is a difficult time in Bangladesh cricket given the poor results over the last year. How do you and the likes of Soumya Sarkar, Sabbir Rahman, Mustafizur Rahman and Mehidy Hasan understand your role?
I think every player knows his responsibility, what his role is. We are lucky to play alongside senior cricketers who have been around for more than ten years. Many teams don't have such players. We must support them, but not just for the sake of it. We have to perform regularly.
I feel that us, the younger players, are a bit inhibited. Players think about their game, their technique, tactics, the situation you are facing, what you did in the last game, what you plan to do in the next game, how to be more involved in a game, whether to go for your shots or play conservatively. But I think the junior cricketers haven't been able to do this.
If you look at how Tamim [Iqbal] bhai plays, there are days when he makes runs at [about] a run a ball and days when he takes his time. He knows how to handle every situation, how to build from scenarios presented to him. That helps the team.
I think the juniors are still a few steps behind in this regard. When we are playing big shots, we keep playing big shots. We sometimes don't clearly think about what the pitch or team demands. We are no longer newcomers. It's time we take responsibility.