Apr 242015

RubelMohammad Isam:  The Bangladesh selectors face the challenge of picking a Test squad that allows the team management to play three quicks against Pakistan, a combination that has worked in ODIs over the last six months. However, there isn’t enough depth in the pace stocks to provide long-term firepower in Test cricket.

The squad could be announced during the T20 international in Mirpur on Friday, because the team leaves Dhaka for Khulna on Saturday to prepare for the first Test, which begins on April 28.

Among the fast bowlers, only Rubel Hossain has a confirmed spot in the squad, after he was rested for the T20 international. Rubel has reignited his international career since the World Cup with more pace and movement, but his 16-wicket aggregate in ODIs over the last six months is second to Mashrafe Mortaza’s 19. Taskin Ahmed, third in this list, hasn’t played long-form cricket since February 2013.

Rubel’s automatic selection is not entirely because of his Test performance. His bowling average of 73.34 is still the worst in Test cricket for anyone who has bowled at least 3600 deliveries.

The options are thin for the selectors.

Shafiul Islam’s seven wickets were the most for a Bangladesh quick in Tests last year, but he didn’t play a World Cup match and picked up a hand injury recently. The selectors did not choose Al-Amin Hossain for the Pakistan ODIs, so unless he and Shafiul did something dramatic in the nets, they are doubtful selections.

Chief selector Faruque Ahmed has been interested in the left-arm quick Mustafizur Rahman for the last 12 months. After his stint with the Under-19 team, the young bowler from Satkhira was a surprise inclusion in the Bangladesh A side for their West Indies tour last year. Rahman has been the country’s leading wicket-taker among pace bowlers in this first-class season.

Apart from Rahman, the selectors mentioned Mohammad Shahid a few times, though he has only made it to the second string sides. Shahadat Hossain, who played one Test against Zimbabwe last year, took only 13 first-class wickets this season but he has remained on the selectors’ radar by bowling regularly in the Bangladesh nets.

Robiul Islam, Bangladesh’s highest wicket-taker among quicks in the last three years, is low on the list of contenders after a series of injuries this season. He played just three first-class and two List-A matches since the Test against West Indies last year.

Selecting the spinners will not be as much of a problem. Shakib Al Hasan should have left-arm spinner Taijul Islam and legspinner Jubair Hossain for company. They finished just behind Shakib in the list of most wickets for Bangladesh last year.

Taijul holds the Bangladesh record for best bowling figures in an innings while Jubair took a five-wicket haul against Zimbabwe. Coach Chandika Hathurusingha has made it clear that he wants Jubair around. Left-arm spinners Abdur Razzak and Elias Sunny are the only bowlers with more than 40 first-class wickets this season but it is doubtful whether the selectors will pick either of them. Offspinner Sohag Gazi could be ahead of them if an extra spinner is needed, after he was cleared to bowl by the ICC in February and has been doing well with bat and ball since.

The other area of discussion might be Tamim Iqbal’s opening partner, though Soumya Sarkar could have settled that with his unbeaten 127 in the third ODI against Pakistan. He has been in the Bangladesh team since the fifth ODI against Zimbabwe last December. He opened with Tamim against Pakistan and looked at ease despite two low scores. They added 145 runs in the third game, the first time in ten innings the Bangladesh opening pair had added 50-plus.

If Sarkar is picked he will replace Imrul Kayes, who made two Test hundreds in six innings last year. He also added more runs in two stands with Tamim than what Shamsur Rahman managed in 12. But Imrul made just 14 runs in four ODIs since the Zimbabwe Tests, and was poor in the World Cup.

Anamul Haque is likely to be picked too, though not as first-choice opener; he has not been a Test regular since his debut in 2013. He made a striking return to competitive cricket with 94 and 111 for Prime Bank South Zone in the Bangladesh Cricket League first-class match against BCB North Zone that ended on Friday. He was the regular opener in ODIs with Tamim until his shoulder injury midway through the World Cup. Anamul’s performance will push Rony Talukdar and Litton Das down the pecking order.

Nasir Hossain could make the No 7 spot after a reasonable comeback in the World Cup. He got to bat just once against Pakistan but his bowling was handy. Shuvagata Hom had replaced Hossain against Zimbabwe but averaged only 23.40 in six innings and did not take wickets.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84