Litton: ‘It helps knowing that the team depends on me to play a big innings’

Knowing his responsibility, understanding the pattern of the game, avoiding looking at hard numbers and changing his training method are some of the things that have helped Litton Das become a more consistent Test batter.

Litton’s 141 in the first innings against Sri Lanka in Dhaka is his third Test hundred in the last six months when he has averaged 56.15, after spending six years as an underperforming enigma.

Litton said that he is enjoying the responsibility put on him by his team-mates, who believe he can get them big scores. For long, Litton has been regarded as the most talented batter of his generation, with most of the senior cricketers often batting away media criticism towards him. Litton is however more interested in biding his time in the lower middle-order, despite his form.

“It stays in the back of my mind that my team wants me to play a big innings,” Litton said. “It helps me knowing that the team depends on me. Where did I score my runs this year? There will be more opportunities. When the senior brothers will not play, I will get my chance (higher up the batting order). I don’t see how I can bat up. I am fine with where I am.”

Litton said that when Ashwell Prince was Bangladesh’s batting coach, he explained to him the necessity to bat for time in Test cricket. He added that taking his eyes off from his career numbers has also helped him. Litton, however, remained mum about what changes he made in his training method.

“I now know the pattern of Test cricket, how long I should bat to get big runs. What he explained to me, really helped me. I still follow those words.

“When I used to see (my statistics), I saw that I was on the backfoot. There was a challenge to go forward. I no longer see (my statistics) because I am more focused on going ahead. I don’t know how far I can go.”

Litton’s confidence showed in how he kept hitting pull shots whenever the Sri Lankan pace duo of Asitha Fernando and Kasun Rajitha pitched short and bowled bouncers at him. He scored 47 runs off 28 balls square of the wicket and behind square on the leg side, during his innings.

“I think I have been playing the pull shot quite well in the last year-and-a-half. The control was with me. I believed that I could get out of the situation if he was bowling short. I can keep scoring. I kept playing the pull shot because I had the confidence to play the pull,” he said.

Litton’s 141 was part of a 272-run sixth wicket stand with Mushfiqur Rahim, who was unbeaten on 175 when Bangladesh were bowled out for 365. In an innings where six batters got out for ducks, the partnership created all sorts of records.

“Mushy bhai and I batted under pressure. We wanted to put together a big partnership, and whatever we did, it was good for the team. I have had a number of 150-plus stands with (Mushy) bhai. We knew that we had to make 300-plus batting first in Mirpur. We wanted to bat long since our top-order failed.

“When I go to bat, even if the team score is 300 runs, I am under pressure. When I am batting at five wickets down (quickly), I am still under pressure. I start from zero. The normal conversation with Mushfiq was to drag the innings as much as possible. Our first target was to play till lunch.”

Bangladesh will consider themselves slightly ahead of the curve after they took Kusal Mendis’ wicket late on the second day. “They are still far behind (Bangladesh’s first innings score). We will have a big chance if we can take one or two early wickets tomorrow. We will be in the backfoot if they can get close to our score or even take a lead,” Litton said, warning that the Mirpur pitch is already showing sign of variable bounce.

“It was certainly uneven. One of the first two balls I faced today, was uneven. It was slightly better than the typical Mirpur wicket. I think as the Test wears on there will be deliveries that are more uneven.”

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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