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Sabbir in, Imrul out - BCB has set a dangerous precedent

Sabbir Rahman's ban was reduced to let him travel to New Zealand Getty Images

Not for the first time, Bangladesh's squad selection ahead of a big tour - now for three ODIs and three Tests in New Zealand - has led to more than one question.

Sabbir ban reduction - what does it say about BCB's values?

Mashrafe Mortaza's decision to ask for Sabbir Rahman's inclusion made it clear that to the captain, Sabbir has the most ability among the current crop of batsmen to tackle pace and bounce in the lower middle-order.

Sabbir doesn't really have the numbers to back up this belief but his body language has always offered hope. His average from 54 ODIs is 24.51. In four ODIs in New Zealand, it's 28.25.

More importantly, by reducing his six-month ban for abusing a fan on social media by one month to ensure he gets to travel to New Zealand, the Bangladesh Cricket Board has made a mockery of its claims of being a professional body, and also sent a dangerous message about the overall culture in the Bangladesh team.

New Zealand's tour schedule was known well before the ban was announced. So, if the BCB felt it was necessary to pick him for the ODIs, why not ban him for a shorter period? And even if Sabbir is so integral to Bangladesh's plans for the World Cup, the BCB could have waited till the March 1 deadline and then given him a go in the New Zealand Test series or in the Ireland tri-series in May.

BCB's show of leniency with Sabbir isn't new.

When he was banned in January 2018 for beating up a fan during a first-class game, the BCB barred him from playing domestic cricket for six months, fined him Tk 20 lakh [approx. USD 24,000], and also took away his central contract. But he was free to play for the Bangladesh team.

Where's the logic in leaving out Imrul?

Imrul Kayes has often divided opinion, but his omission from the ODI side this time doesn't quite add up.

After selecting him midway through the Asia Cup for a middle-order role, for the first time in his international career, Imrul's 72 against Afghanistan was exactly what the team management would have wanted from him.

In October 2018, Imrul made 349 runs in the ODI series against Zimbabwe, the second-most in a three-match series behind Babar Azam's 360, scored in the UAE against West Indies in 2016. Without Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, Bangladesh were in trouble in the first game, in which Imrul made an important 144. He also guided the chase in the third game.

He didn't make runs thereafter in the two Tests against Zimbabwe and the first two ODIs against West Indies, and was dropped after the first Test against West Indies because of a shoulder injury - but played domestic cricket almost immediately after that.

Chief selector Minhajul Abedin's explanation that Imrul has been dropped because of conditions in New Zealand is also flawed - he was Bangladesh's top-scorer in the ODI series in New Zealand in 2016.

Imrul's omission, puzzling in itself, also suggests that the Bangladesh selectors, team management and the BCB president Nazmul Hassan have tremendous faith in Soumya Sarkar and Liton Das, who will form Bangladesh's top three with Tamim.

Why four spinners for Test matches in New Zealand?

The selection group has also retained all four spinners who were instrumental in the 2-0 win over West Indies at home in the Test squad.

It was a forward-thinking idea at the time - albeit slightly criticised because of the excessive dependence on spin - because the quartet took full advantage of the pitches in Dhaka and Chittagong.

But captain Shakib, a frontline spinner himself, and Steve Rhodes, the coach, are unlikely to pick Mehidy Hasan, Taijul Islam and Nayeem Hasan in the XI in Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch in the latter part of the New Zealand summer even if they are all handy lower-order batsmen.

There are also four pace bowlers, two of whom - Mustafizur Rahman and Taskin Ahmed - will be completing the Bangladesh Premier League campaign and also be in the ODI side. None of the four pace bowlers have ever been part of a three-Test series, and with the World Cup around the corner, would the team management be keen on risking them for all the Tests?