“While the squad appears exciting and rewarding, it remains to be seen how well the newbies fare”
As Bangladesh announced their 15-member side for the Test series against Zimbabwe, a few things stood out.
- The inclusion of four newbies in the squad, shedding light on their continued experimentation of players who do well in domestic cricket.
- The importance of a lower-order all-rounder.
- Finding the right opening combination.
Mohammad Mithun, Ariful Haque, Nazmul Islam and Khaled Ahmed all won maiden places in the Test side after strong showings in the domestic circuit. The selectors were, in particular, on the lookout for lower-order all-rounders who can counter low bounce and a spinner who could bowl stump to stump.
“The team management were looking for a bowler who could bowl straight stump to stump, which is why we picked [Nazmul Islam] Apu,” said chief selector Minhajul Abedin as revealed by ESPNCricinfo. “We didn’t consider [Abdur Razzak] Raj on current form and fitness. The management also wanted a batsman who could be a big-hitter at No 7 or 8 and who could also tackle the low bounce, which is why we decided on Ariful.”
The emphasis on lower-order batting options is further amplified by the inclusion of Mithun, who has been a sound performer in ODIs, showcasing a temperament and penchant for tough situations. Mithun’s was probably a predictable selection for his ability and situation batting had been pivotal to Bangladesh’s run in the Asia Cup. Tamim and Shakib are still injured which could mean a crucial role for Mithun in the middle-order alongside skipper Mahmudullah.
Ariful is an exciting selection for he comes off the back of a career-best double hundred, boasts of a decent first-class average and has a pretty decent bowling record to go along with that. Seam bowling all-rounders area rarity in the country and to have one who is as good a batsman as some of the top flight domestic players is a much welcome sign.
Same goes with Khaled Ahmed who is a beneficiary of some average showing by Rubel Hossain and Kamrul Islam Rabbi. Mustafizur Rahman returns to take the other seam bowling slot.
While the influx of talent is uber exciting, going by the trend set in ODIs where Fazle Mahmud created a huge stir only to come a cropper with a faulty technique at International level, the men picked ought to back their reputation with sound performances. The Zimbabwe series is a fairly easy induction for the youngsters and meaningful showings could see them get a longer run in the side for each of them have been picked keeping specific roles in mind, which is a welcome move.
That said, all isn’t rosy with the selection for the opening and top-order conundrum seems to have a few puzzles. While the selectors have smartly jumped the Tushar Imran’s hurdle – having debuted in 2002, Imran is racking up the numbers now but the selectors have opted to look at the future – the non-inclusion of Soumya Sarkar perhaps came a tad too early.
His scores in the second half of last year read 8, 15, 33, 9, 9 and 3 but it is preceded by a promising show where he made four half-centuries in seven innings. Liton Das is given a longer rope perhaps after a couple of fighting knocks in the Caribbean when the rest of the team came off looking ugly.
Nazmul Hossain Shanto is an interesting pick for it shows that the selectors aren’t too confident of Liton at the top. It could also be that they want to switch Liton to a middle-order role and give him the gloves, thus relieving Rahim of additional responsibility, and open with Shanto and Imrul Kayes.
Mominul Haque, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah form the crux of the middle-order but in the absence of Shakib-al-Hasan, they would be required to not just get starts but convert them into bigger ones. The omission of Tushar Imran suggests that the selectors are confident on the trio clicking and it is in line with a youth policy in recent times.
“We have established batsmen like Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah at No 4 and 5 where Tushar usually bats in domestic cricket. We are also looking at some players who can be our future, at least in the next two or three years.”
While the squad appears exciting and rewarding, it remains to be seen how well the newbies fare. If they do click in unison, Bangladesh will have quite a few worries sorted out but things haven’t been as pretty on the field as they appear on paper in the past, so let’s probably wait a bit before passing a judgement.