Selection questions & Smith's 'bouncer'
When Australia disembarked in Dhaka on Friday night to mark their first Bangladesh tour after a gap of 11 long years, they were whisked off to a posh hotel not far away from the airport. Security was so imposing that few got the opportunity to take a glimpse of the famous 'baggy greens'.
But a vibrant day after a quiet night spiced up the upcoming two-Test series yesterday at the home of Bangladesh cricket in Mirpur, where a brief visit of the touring side was as animated as the explosion that centred around the announcement of the home squad for the first Test.
The talking point of the day was obviously the return of all-rounder Nasir Hossain and the exclusion of Mominul Haque in a 14-man squad for the first Test, starting at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium on August 27. The press briefing in Mirpur turned noisy the moment the selection panel, led by Minhazul Abedin, announced the squad. The selectors also did not consider Mahmudullah Riyad, tipped as one of the five pillars of Bangladesh's recent success story, in the squad. But the axing of Mominul sparked the biggest debate and at one stage chief selector Abedin, who was confronted with a volley of questions, asked the critical press to listen to the opinion from an all-consuming Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha, who is also a member of a long and complex selection panel.
Hathurusingha defended the decision by saying that the diminutive left-hander, whom he calls Mini, has not been performing for the last one year. Mominul failed to make an impact since his outstanding 64 in that windy Wellington Test earlier this year. The coach also said that the left-hander was very much part of the core group.
But what Hathurusingha bypassed was that Mominul, the only member of the group tailor-made for Test, was harshly treated for not firing in his last six innings. Curiously though there are instances in the team where certain players enjoyed very long lull periods. This is perhaps the first time the selectors were in hot water after a relatively peaceful period for a long time. There was however signs of tension regarding the team selection in Sri Lanka, where Mahmudullah was dropped quite unceremoniously ahead of Bangladesh's 100th Test in Colombo.
It was a decision that sparked fury but a victory in Colombo served well for Hathurusingha. The Sri Lankan think-tank of the Tigers has so far been successful in transforming an otherwise defeatist team into a very competitive one across all formats of the game. He will again be experimenting in the two-Test series. And this time he will be up against a team he knows better than anybody else. But at the same time Australia are a team that is not only ruthless but is the most clinically proficient side in world cricket.
Steven Smith's men did not train yesterday. They made a brief visit to Mirpur where they had a good look at the wicket and piped through the gym for a while. A team, which is considered as masters of exploiting the opposition's weakness on and off the field, has already started the mind games even before taking to the field.
“What to do when all the carriages are full. #watch your head #Bangladesh,” Smith wrote in an Instagram post with a video he probably took from his hotel room showing excess passengers sitting on the roof of a running train.