'Changed my mentality to play Test cricket' - Imrul
Imrul Kayes said he had to fine-tune his mental make-up more than his batting technique to forge a comeback to the Bangladesh Test team after more than two years. Imrul is one of two openers picked in the 14-man squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka starting in Dhaka on Monday.
Imrul was not expecting the call-up to the Test squad and was preparing for the National Cricket League, the season's second first-class competition, after having played the Bangladesh Cricket League earlier in the year.
"Actually I was not even too sure if I would do well in the Bangladesh Cricket League, but I had targeted to play well in the National Cricket League," Imrul said. "I was very serious in the Dhaka Premier League as I felt that it is a big tournament from our point of view. I was eager to perform there, and I did decently."
Perhaps this is the change in his mentality as he began focusing more on domestic cricket, keen to put in the big scores, instead of paying too much attention on getting back into the senior team.
Shamsur Rahman is the likely candidate to make his Test debut at the Shere Bangla National Stadium but, having received the surprise call-up, Imrul is pushing his case too. He has a century and a half-century in his last five innings, enough to keep him excited that he might get the nod to open with Tamim again.
"I had made some technical changes but, importantly, I changed my mentality that is required to play Test cricket," Imrul said. "I had to put in a lot of hard work and that is the reason I could be successful. Obviously it feels nice to be back again but the enjoyment would be bigger if I get a chance in the Test matches.
"Like any other person, I was also going through the ups and downs of life. But I had the belief that I can make a comeback if I can play some good innings. And I have done that. I am always ready to grab the chance if I can return to the national team on the back of some good form."
But Imrul's Test record isn't too encouraging. He averages 17.15 in 16 Tests since 2008 and lost his place in the Test side after the series against West Indies in 2011. Despite the below-par personal record, Imrul is one half of Bangladesh's most successful opening pair. But his poor personal form caught up, and the selectors decided to try the likes of Nazimuddin, Junaid Siddique, Jahurul Islam, Shahriar Nafees and Anamul Haque instead.
Imrul has batted decently in the first-class competitions over the last two years, and has peaked at the right time, notching an average of more than 74 in the Bangladesh Cricket League this season. He has also scored 655 runs at 43.66 in the Dhaka Premier Division that concluded in December last year.
At the same time, Imrul also had to correct the balance in his batting stance and while playing certain shots, and he took the help of a senior coach. Like any other Bangladesh cricketer dropped from the national team, Imrul, too, had to deal with the lack of proper practice facilities at the club and division level. However, it was not enough of a deterrent for a man keen to make the comeback.
"I worked with [BCB's game development manager Nazmul Abedeen] Fahim sir, as I had some problem with my balance. Now, as that is removed, I am batting more comfortably and easily. When you are batting well, you can play any stroke. He told me that if my batting is in the correct order, I can play any stroke. It becomes easier that way.
"You usually don't get facilities that the national team does in other places in the country. Despite that, whenever I got a chance I tried to complete my individual practice at the Mirpur indoor facilities, or the National Cricket Academy."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here