The two rounds of the Bangladesh Cricket League, which begins at the BKSP today, will be the only opportunity for the national players to get some longer-version practice before the start of the Test series against Sri Lanka later this month.
Mahmudullah Riyad's Central Zone, the reigning champions, will take on Tamim Iqbal's East Zone at BKSP-2 and Mushfiqur Rahim's North Zone will face Abdur Razzak's South Zone at BKSP-3 in the first round.
This will also be the only opportunity for the new selection committee, led by Faruque Ahmed, to finalise the national side and go through any last-minute changes if required. A comparatively decent showing against New Zealand last November witnessed improvements in several grey areas in Bangladesh's Test side.
Marshall Ayub, for instance, looked positive in the dubious number three position. Mominul Haque's ability to play long innings ensured that the middle order has a safety net. Also Bangladesh's tactic to go in with seven batsmen as opposed to the traditional 'eight' depicted a more aggressive mindset.
While there may not be any major changes for the Sri Lanka series, there will however be plenty to look forward to in the four-day competition.
THE OPENING OBSTACLE
Anamul Haque had a terrible Test series against New Zealand and a poor showing in the BCL could well lead to him getting dropped. While none of the national openers have managed to match Tamim Iqbal's record, there are quite a few who have performed in the recent domestic competitions and are in contention for the spot. Jahurul Islam, who played in the previous Test series against Zimbabwe, is one of them. His average of 33.28 as an opener is the highest among the contenders. Imrul Kayes dug out a few good performances this year, whereas the likes of Shahriar Nafees and Junaed Siddiqui could also be in consideration for their previous record. Either way, the BCL is likely to have an important say in sealing that crucial position.
THE BATSMEN'S BATTLE
With Mominul, Shakib AL Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Nasir Hossain, Bangladesh's middle order seems concrete. However, there are a couple of batsmen in the sidelines who are doing all it takes to get into the side. Naeem Islam, who replaced the injured Shakib in the ODI series against New Zealand, proved to be a game changer and will definitely be eyeing a spot. He can bat at number three as well and could push Marshall all the way. Former national vice-captain Mahmudullah Riyad, who was dropped in the last series, will have to produce something special to end his poor run in the format and earn a recall. Rokibul Hasan, who played a few good knocks in the Dhaka Premier League, will want to continue his good run in order to keep the selectors interested.
In an ideal world, Bangladesh's pace attack would not see any changes. The traditional two-man pace attack is likely to feature Robiul Islam and Rubel Hossain. Rubel has been generating good pace ever since his recovery from his shoulder injury while Robiul has been proving his efficiency for a while in domestic cricket. However it's the youngster Al Amin Hossain for whom the BCL would mean the most. He has been in good form ever since his return from the A tour in England and if he can produce something special, he could get at least one Test.
In the last four years Mashrafe just played two first-class games and his return to the longer format is something that not many could have predicted. While the bowler is not expected to be in contention for the Sri Lanka Test series, his performance in the BCL is likely to shape his future in longer version cricket.