Tushar Imran's fight to resume Bangladesh career
For an experienced cricketer in Bangladesh, even red-hot form does not guarantee a jump from domestic to international cricket. Just ask Shahriar Nafees who couldn't break into the senior team even after scoring a record-breaking 1710 first-class runs in 2015. So you can understand why 34-year old Tushar Imran, who last week completed a hat-trick of hundreds, isn't looking too far ahead.
However, he can certainly think about playing for Bangladesh A in their home series against Sri Lanka A, who are scheduled to play three four-day matches and three one-dayers from June 26, around the same time when the Bangladesh senior team tours the West Indies. In light of that, the selectors will be calling players up next month to be part of the BCB's High Performance programme, the Bangladesh A side and the senior side as well.
Given the current state of Bangladesh cricket in which consistent performers other than Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mashrafe Mortaza and Mahmudullah are being sought out, Tushar's weight of runs has put him firmly on the decision-makers' minds.
He struck hundreds in each innings for South Zone in a Bangladesh Cricket League match against East Zone. Chief selector Minhajul Abedin was at that game in Sylhet, which Tushar, who batted 10 minutes short of eight hours, saw as a good sign.
"Nannu bhai [Abedin] watched the whole match," Tushar said. "I think if he thinks I need to give a test before the final exam [Bangladesh call-up], the Sri Lanka A series is coming up. It may also be opportunities for Shahriar Nafees, Naeem Islam, Alok Kapali and Abdur Razzak.
"My fitness is better than before but I am constantly keeping myself fit. When you are scoring heavily, you don't have to do extra fitness work. I am doing the job in the 22 yards."
Bangladesh cricket isn't kind to players on the wrong side of 30. It used to be worse in the mid-2000s when even those with great potential were sent to the scrap heap before they were 25. Tushar is one of those, having played his last international game soon after his 24th birthday. He managed only five Tests and 41 ODIs in five years since making his debut in 2002. In all that time, he was only able to hit two half-centuries and eventually became a symbol of how underprepared young Bangladesh players were in the early days of Test status.
Things have changed a lot since then. With four first-class matches left in the 2017-18 domestic season, Tushar is the highest run-getter with a tally of 935 and a batting average of 77.91, bolstered by five hundreds. Mizanur Rahman, the 26-year old from North Zone, has also scored as many centuries this season, and is only 92 runs away from Tushar's mark. But there is one big point of separation between the two: consistency.
Earlier this year, Tushar became the first Bangladeshi batsman to reach 10,000 runs in first-class cricket. He has averaged 50-plus in seven out of the last 10 seasons, and since his last international match, Tushar has been the highest run-scorer in Bangladesh's four-day cricket circuit.
Despite all of that, Tushar knows it won't be easy to win a Test cap. "Breaking into the middle-order is tough. I think I have to score a lot more to beat the current lot. The only place for me to prove is domestic cricket. I am trying in my way, and if the selectors think this is what I need to do, I am prepared.
"I am just trying on my own but in the position where I usually bat, there's Mushfiqur, Mahmudullah, Shakib and Mominul [Haque]. They have been consistent in international cricket while I have been doing my job in domestic cricket."
While Nafees' fine domestic form not translating into a national call-up may sound discouraging, Tushar can take heart from Abdur Razzak's dramatic call-up into the Bangladesh Test side earlier this year. The 35-year old left-arm spinner is another big performer in the domestic scene, and had been patiently waiting for the selectors to be convinced of his value.
For now, Tushar isn't aiming too high, finding satisfaction by outdoing younger and more celebrated batsmen, some of whom are from his region. "Whenever possible, I try to score more than my teammates Soumya [Sarkar], Imrul [Kayes], [Anamul Haque] Bijoy and [Mohammad] Mithun. It is what keeps me going."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84