Shamsur Rahman gets Test call-up
The Bangladesh selectors picked up Shamsur Rahman and Imrul Kayes as the likely candidates to form the opening pairing with Tamim Iqbal for the first Test against Sri Lanka, which begins on January 27. The batsmen replaced Anamul Haque and Naeem Islam from the previous Test squad that played New Zealand in October.
Shamsur is uncapped in Test cricket but made his ODI debut against New Zealand, scoring 98 in his second game. He has been in the fringes of the senior side for a long time (he was also sent in as a replacement for Shakib-Al-Hasan during Bangladesh's tour to England in 2010). Recently, he smashed 267 in the domestic first-class tournament.
Imrul has played 16 Tests averaging 17.15, but he has returned on the back of a first-class century and his good run for Bangladesh A as well as in the domestic competitions.
Naeem was justifiably dropped as the selectors went with Marshall Ayub at No 3, and decided that they need a back-up for Shamsur in the opening position. Chief selector Faruque Ahmed was happy to pick the two experienced openers whose form has been better than Anamul's in the last six months. Anamul played the last two Bangladesh Tests against New Zealand, aggregating just 50 runs.
"Shamsur Rahman and Imrul Kayes have been picked over Naeem Islam and Anamul Haque because their form over the last six months has certainly been a factor," Faruque said. "The team management will decide who among these two will play. We have kept a back-up opener. Our input will be there if the management wants to know why we picked them both.
"I still feel Bijoy [Anamul Haque] has a lot of potential. He was the best option when the selectors last picked a Test team. But over the last six months, some experienced batsmen have done better. He can play Test matches, but right now, we have picked some in-form batsmen."
Mahmudullah's bowling ability helped him get picked over Naeem, Faruque said. "We considered Mahmudullah's bowling ahead of Naeem as we consider these two and Nasir as similar players," he said.
"Naeem did well in the last ODI series. He is still in our thoughts. We have also thought about three left-handers in the Sri Lankan line-up, giving the captain an extra offspin option with Sohag Gazi, which we think Mahmudullah can do in Test cricket."
Among the bowlers, Al-Amin Hossain, who debuted against New Zealand, was retained. He will accompany Robiul Islam and Rubel Hossain, a pair from whom much is expected having shown glimpses of good form last year. Sohag Gazi and Abdur Razzak will vie for the second spinner's slot beside Shakib, with Gazi being the frontrunner.
Imrul, Al-Amin and Mahmudullah are not automatic contenders for the playing XI on January 27, but all three have shown they can contribute having been in decent batting or bowling form.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here