Test tours to Sri Lanka have been a bittersweet affair for Bangladesh, admittedly with much more of the bitter stuff than the sweet. Fortunately for Bangladesh, the unpleasant experiences are confined to their early days in Test cricket, in their first decade. Their most recent tour of the island nation in 2013 saw their highest Test score, their first Test double-century essayed by captain Mushfiqur Rahim and consequently a genuine drawn Test in Galle, one of only two non-defeats against Sri Lanka in 16 Tests.
Perhaps coincidently, Bangladesh's similarly bittersweet experience of Test cricket has been trending towards relatively more pleasant experiences recently -- namely competing in all their recent away Tests and before that, winning the Dhaka Test against England last year. And the national selectors have formed a 16-man squad, announced at noon yesterday, with the aim of bringing all the better elements together and trying their best to cover all bases.
Mustafizur Rahman is back in the Test fold after regaining confidence in his bowling in the aftermath of shoulder surgery and fellow pacer Rubel Hossain, who impressed in the second Test in New Zealand, takes the place of Shafiul Islam who is out with a stomach ailment.
The slight surprise is that there are five pacers -- Taskin Ahmed, Kamrul Islam Rabbi, Subhashis Roy, Mustafizur and Rubel -- in a squad that is going on tour to a subcontinent nation.
“In Galle [the venue for the first Test starting from March 7] the wicket may have some grass,” chief selector Minhajul Abedin told reporters at Mirpur yesterday. “If they provide a sporting track maybe we have to play with three seamers. We know the P Sara Oval [venue for the second Test] will be a turning wicket, so there may well be a seaming track in Galle. We cannot be sure of what their plans are.
“In New Zealand's last Test at Galle, Tim Southee took almost eight wickets [Southee actually took four and Trent Boult took two in the first innings], so we have to keep that in mind.”
The other noteworthy aspect of the squad is that opener Imrul Kayes has not made the list because of the thigh muscle tear he sustained in New Zealand in January, which was aggravated during the practice match before the Test in India earlier this month. Promising youngster Mosaddek Hossain, therefore, retains his place in the squad. Minhajul however did not close the door on Imrul returning for the second Test, starting on March 15, if he passes a fitness test on March 4.
“It is unfortunate that he was injured before the Hyderabad Test. We will observe his fitness for two rounds of the Bangladesh Cricket League. The second round will end on March 1, and after two days' rest he will go for a fitness Test. If he does well there we will include him in the squad for the second Test,” said Minhajul, adding that including Imrul would not be a problem because he is also part of the plan for the limited-overs leg of the tour that will follow the Tests.
Tamim Iqbal, Liton Kumar Das, Soumya Sarkar, Mominul Haque, Mahmudullah Riyad, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim (C), Sabbir Rahman, Mehedi Hasan Miraz, Mustafizur Rahman, Taijul Islam, Taskin Ahmed, Mosaddek Hossain, Kamrul Islam Rabbi, Subashis Roy and Rubel Hossain.