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Liton continues to shine after turning a corner

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Bangladesh's opener Liton Kumar Das has been on a roll since 2020. The right-handed batsman scored a brilliant hundred against Afghanistan in the second ODI in Chattogram to prove his class against one of the best spin attacks in the world comprising Rashid Khan, Mujeeb ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi.

There was no doubt about Liton's batting ability that first came to the fore with his spectacular hundred against India in the Asia Cup final in 2018. Since that though, there was some concern over his consistency despite having shown his class now and then. Liton had to take the blame for throwing away his wicket more often than not and many felt it was largely due to his ability to play many strokes.

In his seven-year career, he has scored 1472 runs that include five hundreds and three fifties in 49 innings, averaging 32. From 2015 to 2019, however, he scored 768 runs in 33 innings that included one hundred and the three half-centuries he's scored so far in his ODI career, averaging 24.77.

He, however, seemed to have learnt his lesson in the last two years. Since 2020, Liton has scored 704 runs that includes four hundreds in 16 innings averaging 46.93. He did not curb his aggressive instinct but began taking his time in the middle before letting loose. He learnt the skill of clearing the rope which had a lot to contribute to this transformation with him more confident even after being subdued for a while in the middle at different junctures of the innings, while his ability to rotate strike has become his biggest strength of late.

"During the last two years there is a big change in his ODI's batting philosophy," Habibul Bashar, the former national skipper, and current selector, told Cricbuzz on Friday (February 25). "Earlier he used to rush but now he is picking up singles and that is releasing a lot of pressure from his shoulder. In the past whenever he used to play three to four dot balls it would put pressure on him and he would go for an unnecessary shot but now that is not the case as he is picking up the singles quite regularly.

"Earlier he used to manufacture shots but now that is not the case due to his focus on rotating the strike. And because he knows that he can play many shots he is always in good stead mentally even if he is picking three to four runs in an over when things get tough at different phases of the innings," he said.

Liton reached his century in the 41st over when he lofted Rashid over covers, but in the process, laid the foundation for Bangladesh to put up a competitive total on the board in the company of Mushfiqur Rahim, with whom he shared a record third-wicket stand of 202 runs. Liton and Mushfiqur seemed well aware that neutralizing the Afghan spinners was the best way forward and both of them avoided any unnecessary risk.

Liton, however, never looked ready to go into a shell and he played strokes whenever there was an opportunity. His ability to play the ball late helped him against the likes of Rashid and others as he chose to cut them square of the wickets rather than forcing them into a shot over midwicket. "He always had time in his hands and now he is properly using it. All I can say is he is planning his innings better in the last two years unlike the past when he seemed to be in a rush rather than taking his time and it can happen for any batsman. Some learn quickly while some take time to understand their game," he added.

Liton was lucky to be dropped on 87 by Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi off Mujeeb, but that can take nothing away from him as he displayed an excellent brand of batting mixed with caution and aggression. Liton eventually departed for 136 off 126 deliveries laced with 16 fours apart from the two sixes when he pulled a slower short ball of Fareed Ahmed to Mujeeb at deep midwicket. Bangladesh eventually went on to post 306 on the board.

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