The 13th-hour inclusion of discarded national openers Soumya Sarkar and Imrul Kayes in Bangladesh's Asia Cup squad may have seemed like reinforcement for a troubled team on Saturday evening, but in the cold light of day it seems little more than a panicked reaction to bad performance. Unfortunately for the team and the fans, panic at the top of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) often trickles down to the team and the results are there to see on the field.
Soumya and Imrul have not played ODIs since October 2017. While Imrul hit 68 in his penultimate ODI innings, the last time Soumya scored more than 50 was in May 2017 against Ireland and his scores in six subsequent innings were 0, 28, 3, 3, 0 and 8. Imrul, during a near 10-year career, has never been able to become more than a stopgap solution in ODIs and an average of 28.9 from 70 matches depicts a batsman who has failed to cash in on repeated opportunities.
When both were ignored in the 16-man squad named for the Asia Cup, it was evidence that the selectors and the board were looking past them for the time being at least. Instead, with the World Cup on the horizon, a new pair was being tried in Tamim Iqbal and Liton Das, with the then uncapped Nazmul Hossain Shanto as the third opener. With Tamim carrying a finger injury into the tournament, chief selector Minhajul Abedin and Co. included Mominul Haque as cover.
It therefore seemed logical when Minhajul said, after Tamim flew home with a fractured left hand sustained in the opening win against Sri Lanka, that they would not ask for replacements as they had already taken the precaution of including an extra member in Mominul. As Tamim's injury was already part of the contingency, no extra action was deemed necessary.
However, logic has a short shelf life in the BCB and after two matches where both Liton and Nazmul -- who replaced Tamim for the second league match against Afghanistan which Bangladesh lost by 136 runs on Thursday -- failed to get going, all previous thought went out the window. Without the final say of skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, who was probably putting on a 66-run partnership with Mehedi Hasan Miraz in Friday's Super Four match against India at the time, the decision was finalised by BCB president Nazmul Hassan to call in both Soumya and Imrul.
After the match, which Bangladesh lost by seven wickets, Mashrafe said that while there had been discussions about reinforcements, he was not clear about the decision as he was on the field when it was finalised. Known as a captain who backs the players he is given in order to get the most out of them, it must not have been a pleasing development.
"Look, those who are coming have also lost their places in the team," said Mashrafe after the India match when asked whether the inclusion of the discarded duo was an admission that the incumbents have failed. "They were dropped because they have not performed. And in these conditions, coming in suddenly and taking the pressure -- I don't know what they have done technically, whether they have rectified the problems for which they were dropped in the first place."
Soumya has scored a T20 half-century on the recent A team tour of Ireland and a 48 in the just-concluded four-day practice match between BCB Red and BCB Green in Khulna. Imrul struck 58 in the same match, but all those performances were in different formats against a much lower standard of opposition than they will face if picked in the 11 for the remaining two Asia Cup games.
If they are picked, the context is not promising. They were set to arrive in Dubai at 10:30pm last night. Not the best of options at the best of times, they will then have to acclimatise to the heat, travel to Abu Dhabi and take part in the match. If neither are picked for the game that Bangladesh have to win to maintain a clear path to the final, then flying them in would be nothing more than a donation to airline company Emirates.
The worst case may be if one or both happen to succeed with the World Cup nine months away. With one opening spot up for grabs when Tamim returns, instead of allowing Nazmul or Liton time to settle into the role, it will give a lifeline to a batsman who has proven time and again that he does not currently have the tools to be successful in the long run.