Anamul treading on last-chance territory
Anamul Haque's series aggregate of 50 runs from four innings against New Zealand, combined with the tendency of the Bangladesh selectors to frequently drop openers, has put his place in the team in danger. Questions are already being raised about Tamim Iqbal's potential opening partner for Bangladesh's next Test series, scheduled against Sri Lanka.
Anamul, who had played just one Test before the New Zealand series, had an indifferent time at the crease. In the first Test in Chittagong, a Doug Bracewell ball that jagged back in had him trapped on the crease. Four balls earlier, he had survived a catch off a no-ball. In the second innings, he attacked Bruce Martin but scooped a punch straight to the cover fielder.
In the first innings in Mirpur, he miscued a pull off Trent Boult only to be out caught. His second-innings dismissal could be described as casual: Anamul put his bat out to a Neil Wagner delivery that merely followed the angle. The ball took an outside edge for a regulation catch to Peter Fulton at second slip.
Bangladesh are scheduled to play their next Test series against Sri Lanka in mid-January. In the intervening period, there is plenty of domestic cricket. Amanul will return to play for Victoria Sporting Club in the Dhaka Premier Division and then for Khulna Division in the National Cricket League. The BCB has expressed doubts over the Bangladesh Premier League but if the tournament is held, it's another opportunity for Anamul to score runs and iron out his technical deficiencies.
At the same time,the selectors will also look out for potential replacements. Jahurul Islam, who opened in the Tests against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka earlier this year, will be looking to win back his place, while Shamsur Rahman, who is a part of the ODI and Twenty20 squads, also has a chance of making the cut. Junaid Siddique and Nafees Iqbal, who played well in the Dhaka Premier Division, could also be on the selectors' radar.
The tendency of the Bangladesh selectors to dump openers, however, is a problem. In the last three years, they have tried six openers, including Anamul, to partner Tamim. Nizamuddin, Jahurul, Imrul Kayes, Shahriar Nafees and Junaid were tested as openers, but were not given enough time to settle.
Against West Indies in November 2012, Junaid and Nazimuddin looked lost against a quality bowling attack. They are not alone. Opening batsmen in Bangladesh have traditionally struggled to handle pace, swing and seam because they seldom get to counter such bowling in domestic cricket, where the batsmen face barely 15 overs of pace spread over four days.
For the Tests against New Zealand, Anamul was brought in after finding form in the Dhaka Premier Divison and on Bangladesh A's tour to England. He had scored an ODI hundred in only his second game against West Indies and, in Tamim Iqbal's absence earlier this year, made his Test debut against Sri Lanka.
The two innings in his debut match in Galle should have been enough for the selectors to realise that Anamul was not yet ready for the Test stage. In the first innings, he batted circumspectly for more than 90 minutes and made 13 off 68 balls before being undone by a conventional off-break by Ajantha Mendis. In the second innings, seeing most batsmen make significant contributions, he chopped on a delivery from Shaminda Eranga trying to force the pace early in his innings.
Clearly, he was unsure of the method he should be using. Anamul is a stroke-player, keen to hit on the up whenever the ball is slightly short or on a good length. He drives from the crease and sometimes looks awkward, but when in form, he has control and is balanced. His lack of footwork is part of a technique he has developed on his own, and it has worked well for him in domestic cricket and during his first foray into the national team.
When he scored the century against West Indies last year, the bowlers kept bowling full and wide, and he gleefully drove the seamers. He wasn't as forceful against Sunil Narine and Marlon Samuels, and spent 22 deliveries in the nineties, delaying Bangladesh's slog. There were always signs that Anamul needed a lot of work in his technique and approach to an innings.
His innings in Sri Lanka, and now the four dismissals here, say much about his undeveloped batting in this format. Tamim though, standing at the other end in Chittagong and Mirpur, has asked that the batsman be shown patience.
"Bijoy [Anamul Haque] had a great start to his international career," Tamim said. "He should be given some time. He has played only 3-4 Test matches, it's not right to judge him. The more time he is given the more he will learn, and I am sure he will play better. I am sure sooner or later he will cope."
Tamim's message is timely one, but whether the selectors take this into account is another matter. They are likely to go for another batsman, but they have limited choices. The popular opinion would be to drop Anamul, and it is likely to be a sobering experience for the opener.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here