Shamsur pushes for Test slot with 267
Shamsur Rahman's 267 in the Bangladesh Cricket League is likely to be a major topic of discussion at the national selectors' table when they pick the Bangladesh squad for the forthcoming Test series against Sri Lanka during the second round of the first-class competition.
The score is the third highest in Bangladesh domestic cricket, behind the sole triple-hundred by Raqibul Hasan (313*) and Marshall Ayub's 289. It is the eighth score of 200 or more in Bangladesh's first-class competitions, all coming in the last seven years.
"Three hundred runs would have been something special," Shamsur told ESPNcricinfo. "But I wasn't lucky enough to reach that milestone. Having said that, I think 267 is still a big score. I played according to the merit of the ball, and I kept on batting the way I usually do.
"Every player wants to play Test cricket. I will wait for my chance, and if it happens, I will be very happy. For now, I want to focus on my batting. I haven't tried anything different. I have done exactly what I have done over the years."
The mindset of giving more value to a bigger score, currently prevailing in Bangladesh cricket, will be pitted against the fact that Anamul Haque, the opener Shamsur could replace, had scored seven first-class hundreds in three years to force his way into international cricket. But he ended up scoring just 50 runs in Bangladesh's last Test series, against New Zealand in October.
Anamul's dismissals in the four innings reflected his confusion at playing in this format. After falling leg-before in the first innings of the first Test, Anamul spooned a catch to cover when presented with a good opportunity to pick up runs for himself in the second innings. In the second Test, he miscued a pull shot too early in his innings and then angled his bat to edge to slip. Even on his Test debut, earlier in 2013, Anamul wasn't sure whether to attack or fully defend.
Shamsur, too, hasn't been a consistent domestic performer in the last few seasons. His previous first-class hundred was more than a year before the 267 in the BCL. But a composed 96 against New Zealand in only his second ODI spoke about the value of backing a batsman who has been playing for a long time. Shamsur has been a fixture in the Bangladesh A team too, having scored a hundred in their last England tour.
Tamim Iqbal has been the only permanent opener since his debut six years ago. Jahurul Islam, Junaid Siddique, Nazimuddin, Shahriar Nafees and Anamul have all opened the innings during this time, but have left questions hanging over their positions.
Jahurul did well in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe earlier in 2013 but couldn't convert good starts to a big score. Siddique and Nazimuddin are on the outer while Nafees' last stint as an opener saw two failures in Harare last year. Anamul was always going to open after he had made a string of hundreds in age-group and first-class cricket and the 120 he made against West Indies in 2012.
The argument in favour of giving Anamul a longer rope is the adjustment period needed for an opener. He has played only six Test innings, which is not enough to gauge his game in the longer format. Shamsur's 267 came on a placid track, and some have questioned whether or not it devalues the score and inflates expectations.
Bangladesh play fewer Tests these days, giving the team limited opportunities to show improvement. In this tight atmosphere, it leaves little place for a batsman like Anamul to grow. He has done well in Twenty20s recently but in his only first-class innings, he made just 3 and didn't get a second chance due to fog at the BKSP-3 ground. Such a situation could give Shamsur the chance to make his Test debut, given that he is in great nick.
At the BKSP-2 ground, he batted at a high strike rate in the first innings, taking just 26 balls to reach his fifty. He slowed down a tad but continued to dominate the East Zone attack to reach 229 runs on the second day. On the third morning, wickets fell at the other end which prompted him to go after the bowling, playing one too many shots to get out 33 short of becoming the second Bangladesh batsman to score 300.
"I was positive right from the start and looking to score runs whenever I got the opportunity and luckily, I got the bad deliveries quite often," Shamsur said. "We lost a few wickets quickly but I remained focused on my game and was looking to smash the bad balls, no matter what was happening at the other end which I think proved well for me.
"Sohan [Nurul Hasan] gave me good support after we lost a few wickets. I always wanted to score big runs, especially in the longer format of the game and today was my day. I am very happy to get this double hundred."
By Bangladeshi standards and due to the lack of such big scores, Shamsur's innings ahead of a Test squad announcement is a thump on the door that is usually knocked on gently. But whether it opens the door or remains just a jolt, would be a question that chief selector Faruque Ahmed would have to answer soon.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here