Necessity and strategy combined to bring about a total of six changes and four new names to the Bangladesh squad for the first Test against England starting in Chittagong this Thursday.
Sabbir Rahman, Mehedi Hassan Miraz, Nurul Hasan and Kamrul Islam Rabbi were the fortunate four to see their names in a spin-heavy Bangladesh Test squad for the first time. The two Test players returning to the squad are off-spinning all-rounder Shuvagata Hom Chowdhury and pacer Shafiul Islam.
Quite unusually, Shafiul and Rabbi are the only two pacers in the squad, which while hinting that there is a debut in the offing for the latter, points more strongly to a flat Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium pitch on Thursday. While there are precious few pace options, Al-Amin Hossain may feel aggrieved, as he has been known to be an effective bowler against left-handers, a style of batsmen England are packed with.
England's left-handers, according to chief selector Minhajul Abedin, was the reason that two off-spinners -- Shuvagata and Under-19 graduate Mehedi -- were included. Shuvagata, who is more a batting all-rounder as his haul of 109 wickets from 60 first-class games suggests, seems to be the only really contentious choice.
Miraz's elevation on the other hand is just reward for his success at the Under-19 level, where he captained Bangladesh to the semifinals in this year's U-19 World Cup at home, and his consistent performances in first-class cricket -- where he averages 40.3 with the bat and 23.48 with the ball for Khulna Division.
“He has been playing well in Under-19 and domestic cricket. We think that he has a lot to offer and we have a lot to gain from him in longer-version cricket,” Minhajul said about Miraz. When asked if the youngster who will turn 19 a day after the end of the first Test was ready, the chief selector replied: “Since we have picked him, of course he is ready.”
One young player who has retained his place is the troubled Soumya Sarkar, who was out for four yesterday and scored a subdued 33 in the first warm-up, was given some support by head coach Chandika Hathurusingha.
“We are worried about his form as well,” said the Sri Lankan. “He probably wants more runs under his belt to get his confidence back; that is why we have given him more chances. Form is temporary, he is a class player. He is still in our plans.”
Minhajul added that the ability of Rabbi, the Barisal Division captain, to bowl at pace with the old ball was crucial in the decision to include him.
“I enjoy playing the longer version much more than the shorter version. I have been captaining the Barisal team for a while and I have a special focus on longer version,” Rabbi told The Daily Star over the phone yesterday. “I like to bowl reverse with the older ball. This is just the start; hopefully I can do well.”
One inclusion that was not surprising but will bring much joy for fans as he is already a star in the shorter formats was Sabbir Rahman's. Hathurusingha said that he will try to look for ways to get him into the 11 come Thursday.
“I feel really happy to be in the Test side. There were many people who said that I was fit only for ODIs and T20 but that's not right,” said Sabbir yesterday. “I'll try to prove that I am good in the longer version as well. The thing that I like the most about Test cricket is that I can play dot balls and get time to get set. I think that will help me a lot. Hopefully I can do well.