Team combinations come to fore ahead of Super Four
Bangladesh opener and ODI vice-captain Liton Das departed for Pakistan yesterday but it remains unclear whether Liton would be part of the playing eleven against Pakistan in Lahore on Wednesday in the first Super Four game of the ongoing Asia Cup.
Liton had been suffering from fever which led to him being ruled out of the Asia Cup. He recovered a few days back but Anamul Haque Bijoy had already been sent as a "like-for-like" replacement.
"Liton is now doing fine. There are a few injury concerns in the team [Asia Cup squad]. We need to discuss these injury issues with the team management and find out if any replacement is required," chief selector Minhajul Abedin had told The Daily Star yesterday.
The Tigers would have a few combination-related worries to sort out before their crucial Super Four opener. There had been instability in the opening slot with Mohammad Naim not quite finding his feet with a big score while the big stage was always going to be intimidating for the young opener Tanzid Hasan Tamim.
Following the debacle in the first group match against Sri Lanka, the Tigers brought in Mehedi Hasan Miraz, who answered the team's call with an authoritative ton. Najmul Hossain, who continued his form with the bat, took Tigers to a strong total which would bring some much-needed confidence to the batting unit.
However, every opponent has a definitive threat lying in wait for the Tigers in this tournament. Facing the likes of Shaheen Shah, Naseem Shah and Harris Rauf would bring different challenges to the table. The new ball would be important for Pakistan and thus the onus will be on Tigers to counter it.
Would Miraz be able to negotiate the seam and swing that Pakistan attack usually gets even on flat surfaces? The presence of a left-handed opener would be one of the mechanisms the management can go for to protect the right-handers against Shaheen's in duckers. Thus, Naim or Tanzid will remain in the picture.
Miraz, meanwhile, may not appear as an opener if Liton is fit enough to play. Given that the new ball may not do much in Pakistani conditions, Miraz will be an option as opener once more. According to BCB sources, the team management does not prefer changing a winning combination.
Miraz was used to counter Mujeeb Ur Rahman's threat early against Afghanistan. With no such spin threat foreseeable against Pakistan at the start of the innings, could plans change?
"Actually, I am always ready for any bowler because it's a new journey for me. If I can't play in the opening slot, I can play in the top-order if the team management gives me an opportunity," Miraz had said about the prospect of facing Pakistan pace attack after the Afghanistan match.
The team management, moreover, would need to focus on the number seven and eight spots too. Shamim Hossain and Afif Hossain seem to be providing similar profiles in those positions, with the latter more suited up the order.
However, the need to bolster the lower-middle order to face up to top-order collapse may be the idea going into the Pakistan game. The absence of a sixth bowler, provided Mahedi Hasan remains out of contention, means the Tigers would have to precariously balance risk and advantages in setting up the eleven against Pakistan.