Poor form has held back some of Bangladesh's young cricketers who, at the start of the year, were touted for big things. Chief selector Minhajul Abedin said that Afif Hossain, Zakir Hasan and, to a lesser extent, Mahedi Hasan had been disappointing in domestic and representative sides since making their T20I debuts in February this year.
Afif is a left-handed opener who bowls useful offspin, once snaring Chris Gayle as part of a five-wicket haul on T20 debut. Zakir is also a left-handed batsman who keeps wickets and is also known for his fielding. Both Under-19s graduates have been billed as the next big stars emerging from Bangladesh but so far they have struggled to find a spot in the senior side regularly.
Mahedi, an offspinner who is useful with the bat, had impressed in the 2017 BPL along with Afif and Zakir. All three were doing well in the Dhaka Premier League List-A competition when they were picked in the T20I side in place of some senior players who were injured at the time.
"We had high hopes about Afif and Zakir but they have been quite disappointing, to be honest," Minhajul told ESPNcricinfo. "They haven't made use of their skill development as well as given game planning much thought. Afif and Zakir didn't do well in domestic cricket or in the Emerging Teams Cup."
Afif made two first-class centuries immediately after his T20I debut but, for Bangladesh A, he scored only 64 runs in six innings against Sri Lanka A and Ireland A. He has averaged 16.90 in the current first-class season, before making just 20 runs in the two Emerging Teams Cup matches.
Zakir averaged 28.92 in 13 innings for Bangladesh A, before making three fifties in seven first-class matches this season so far. He made 69 in one of his two Emerging Teams Cup appearances.
By contrast, Mahedi has done very well in this season's Bangladesh Cricket League first-class tournament, averaging 80.50 with bat and taking 16 wickets at 26.75. "He is not out of contention," Minhajul said. "Mehidy Hasan Miraz is playing all three formats while Nayeem Hasan made a wonderful start to his Test career. We consider him [Nayeem] as Miraz's backup but Mahedi is also one of the offspinners in our radar."
The Bangladesh team management have instead trusted Nazmul Islam, Ariful Haque and Abu Jayed in recent times, with the trio regularly picked in the senior side. Nazmul has played all 13 of Bangladesh's T20Is this year while Jayed has made an impressive start to his Test career. Ariful meanwhile has made debuts in all formats this year.
One thing in common among Nazmul, Jayed and Ariful, as well as Mohammad Mithun who made his Test debut this year, is the length of time they have spent in domestic cricket. Afif, Zakir and Mahedi need a few more seasons in domestic and A-team cricket before they can have enough experience for their individual skills to develop, and to find consistency.
It answers a long-standing question in Bangladesh cricket: do they really need to give youth a chance at the top so quickly? Perhaps, given the evidence, it is more important to let these young cricketers succeed and fail in domestic cricket for a few years before being picked at the highest level.