All eyes were on Mahmudullah and Soumya Sarkar as the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) announced the squad for the first and second ODIs of this month’s three-match series against New Zealand. It was expected that a number of World Cup-bound players would be rested and Tamim Iqbal’s return to the side after his retirement saga was quite imminent as well. But it remained to be seen whether Mahmudullah and Soumya would get their final chance to prove their worth and seal a place in the World Cup squad. And they both have been given the chance.
Soumya has never missed an ICC event since his international debut. He somehow gets in the side at the last minute due to injuries or team combination even though he was not in rich form or anything. This time too, he is in contention without doing much with the bat or ball. He scored 95 runs in the three innings that he batted down the order in the ACC Emerging Cup in July at a strike rate of 104.39.
What Soumya has in him is the ability to score quick runs, which might make him a contender for both opening slot and number seven. Number seven is the spot that Riyad too will be fighting for.
Mahmudullah has been showing his age for some time now. Ever since he was ‘rested’ after the England ODIs earlier this year, he has been the centre of attraction to almost every press conference and squad announcement. He has done his part with fitness training for the past month or so and will definitely feel ready for the challenge.
He had a pretty decent Dhaka Premier League (DPL) campaign after he was ‘rested’. Playing for Mohammedan Sporting Club, he bagged 510 runs in 15 innings at an average of 36.42 and a strike rate of 87.17. If he can somehow manage to transform that form in the New Zealand series, he will probably be good to go in the World Cup squad since most of the backup players failed at number seven.
A hunt for backup opener
A number of backup openers – Tanzid Hasan Tamim, Zakir Hasan, Anamul Haque Bijoy, Soumya Sarkar – have been given a chance in the squad. It is expected that at least one of them will be flying to India for the World Cup.
Zakir was already on the radar after Tamim’s retirement saga. But his unfortunate injury and participation in the Asian Games kept him out of the side. He finally gets his chance to showcase his ability. Tanzid Tamim got two matches in the recently concluded Asia Cup but he didn’t make the best use of his opportunities. He went for a duck in his debut game and then scored 13 against India. Anamul Bijoy has been on and off on the side, just like Soumya.
Bangladesh’s opening slot has been a spot of bother for a while. Both Tamim and Litton Das have been out of form this year. Mehidy Hasan Miraz was tried in their absence and he did brilliantly. But he is not the ultimate solution. Even if Tamim remains fit and Litton returns to his best, Bangladesh will need a backup opener.
There was no place for batters Naim Sheikh, Afif Hossain, and Shamim Hossain who were all part of the squad that played in the Asia Cup. And it is likely that they will face the axe from the World Cup squad as well.