Mashrafe Mortaza © Getty Images
Mashrafe Mortaza © Getty Images

 

After so many assumptions, talks, debates and arguments, the 15-man Bangladesh squad for the upcoming World Cup was announced. But the announcement triggered a wave of disappointment among cricket fans of Bangladesh who could not digest the exclusion of champion bowler Mashrafe Mortaza – dropped for fitness reasons following an injury he suffered in December.

 

The Australian surgeon attending on Mortaza had hinted that the paceman would be fit for the World Cup. In fact, Mortaza had begun bowling off a short run-up during net sessions before the team selection.

Bangladesh should have taken a leaf out of Australia’s book. They risked with Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. Ponting was injured in the Perth Test and missed the Sydney Test this year. Hussey picked up a serious hamstring tear in the ODI against England and underwent surgery. Ponting, too, is recovering from an operation on his little finger. Hussey and Ponting have time to recover before the tournament reaches the knock-out stages, with the quarter finals beginning on March 23. Australia‘s opening match of the campaign is against Zimbabwe in Ahmedabad on February 21. Again, they picked up fading fast bowlers Brett Lee and Shaun Tait just on the basis of their past experience.

 

The mere presence of some players lifts a team’s morale. Mortaza is one such player – a bowler who enjoyed a successful 2007 World Cup and one who has plenty of experience. He is a master at picking up early wickets and Bangladesh will miss him badly.

His injury would have healed as the tournament progressed and he could have bowl off a short run-up and played in just the major matches.

Another omission is Alok Kapali. There are plenty of off-spinners in the team. The presence of a leg-spinner would have given variety to the attack. Importantly, teams like South Africa, England and the West Indies have been traditionally weak against leg-spin. He would have been a great value-add as he is also useful with the bat at No 6 or 7.
Good to see the stylish Shahriar Nafees back. That’s a good selection. And he should be in the final XI instead of Junaid. The selection of Rokibul doesn’t make any sense. He is a player with plenty of limitations and not the man to perform on big occasions.

Jahurul Islam, a young but gutsy player, deserved a place in the squad. If the coach and the captain decide to play Ashraful at No 4, then I don’t think he should not be in the final XI. But I would go for Mushfiqur Rahim at No 4 and play Ashraful at No 6, as Rahim is terrific middle-order stuff and can graft. I am suggesting Ashraful at No 6 only because of his ability to improvise in the late overs. In recent times he has not been in song in the middle-order for which if he comes to bat at 30th-35th over then perhaps his swashbuckling nature and the capability to improvise could script some amazing knocks. The opening pair of Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes should remain intact.

 

I would back Kapali instead of either Naeem Islam or Shuvo. Nazmul Hossain’s career gets a life line in absence of Mortaza. Nazmul proved good against the Kiwis in the first ODI last year. But I don’t see him in the first XI. The Bangladesh new ball pair will be Shafiul and Rubel. And they would be backed by Shakib, Razzak and Co. Mahmudullah Riad is sure to play in the first eleen. The choice is between Naeem and Shuvo. Both are good customers, if not the likes of Shakib and Riad. But as in recent times Bangladesh has been successful with three left-arm spin attack, so I would go for Shuvo instead of Naeem.

 

My final XI is: 1. Tamim Iqbal, 2. Imrul Kayes, 3. Shahriar Nafees, 4. Mushfiqur Rahim, 5. Shakib Al Hasan, 6. Mohamamd Ashraful, 7. Mahmudullah Riad, 8. Suhrawadi Shuvo, 9. Shafiul Islam, 10. Rubel Hossain, 11. Abdur Razzak.

 

The aim is to do better than in the previous World Cup. If we had played the Super 8 in the last World Cup, then failure to advance into the quarter-final this year will be a great sin. One thing must be kept in mind that: we are playing in a multi-national tournament and not a bilateral series. There is no need to bask in past glories. An ideal blend is needed to do better in the World Cup. And the team must give more than 100% if they are to qualify for the quarter-final.

 

The coach and the captain must get the right combination from the 15 man squad to fulfill the desire of the 150 million people of Bangladesh. Mortaza’s absence is a great loss, but let’s moves forward and not rue over the champion bowler’s omission.

 

If the team management gets the right combination from this 15-man squad and the team shows enough professionalism and temperament, then the Tigers can strike gold.

 

(Faisal Caesar is a doctor by profession whose dream of becoming a cricketer remained a dream. But his passion is very much alive and he translates that passion in writing about the game)