Mehrab Hossain jnr, the allrounder, has been picked in Bangladesh's 18-member preliminary squad for the Champions Trophy to be played in India this October and November. He is the only new face in the squad. Shahriar Nafees, the 20-year-old opening batsman, has been named as the vice-captain and is being groomed to take over from Habibul Bashar in the future.
Hossain, currently captaining the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) Academy team in its tour of Pakistan, visited Zimbabwe as part of the Bangladesh A squad in June this year and his performances in both the convinced the selectors to pick him the squad for the Champions Trophy.
"He is basically an opener who can also bat in the middle-order. But if he finally gets the nod he will definitely be considered as an opener," Faruque Ahmed, the chairman of the selection panel told Dhaka-based The Daily Star. "The last two years' performance of the young batsman in different levels gave us the impression that he can represent the senior side for long."
Hossain scored centuries in both innings in the second 'Test' at Mutare, a match that Bangladesh was lucky to escape with a draw when bad light prevented Zimbabwe A from making the 28 runs they needed for victory. Hossain averaged 59.40 for the three-match series. In the five one-day games that followed, he got one fifty and was a fairly economical bowler conceding 31 runs in a wicketless ten-over spell in the fourth ODI.
"We believe that he is a very good player for the longer-version game but that doesn't mean he is not good enough for the shorter-version," Faruque continued. "We have lot of hard-hitting batsmen in the squad but we felt that we need a player like Mehrab who has the ability to play the anchor role in the top-order."
Faruque said that getting the right pair in the opening slot would solve many of the side's problems. Though Javed Omar, the out-of-form opener, has been included in the squad, it is likely that that the selectors are looking to replace him with fresher faces. Faruque simply said that they are looking for a proper [opening] combination before the World Cup.
Habibul Bashar, Bangladesh's captain, was also been included in the squad though he is currently recovering from a fractured thumb. Bashar himself was unsure whether he needed surgery on the metacarpal of his left hand. "If it [surgery] is needed, the Champions Trophy is over for me. I will meet with a local doctor tomorrow but I need a week to settle the issue. What I desperately want is to play the tournament. This is really a worrying factor for us because he is not only an important batsman in the middle-order but also the captain of the team," said Faruque. "We will wait till the last moment."
In Bashar's absence Khaled Mashud had led Bangladesh on the tour of Kenya but he was overlooked for the vice-captaincy for the Champions Trophy. Nafees' appointment came as a surprise but Mashud said that it was the right step because Bangladesh had to groom someone to take over after Bashar.
"I was not upset because I believe that the time has come to groom someone for the future, otherwise it would be a big problem for our team," said Mashud. "But we should keep faith with someone for a while before taking any decision."
Bashar too echoed the sentiment. "I think it is a good choice because he has the cricketing brain to become a leader in future. Yes, he is too young but the reality is the young guys between 20 to 25 are dominating the national team, that's why there was no way other than to choose a youngster for the job. But my only desire is that we should give him time before taking any negative decision"
The BCB also announced a seven-member squad for the Asian Super Sixes Challenge to be held in Karachi from September 13 to 18. Nazmus Sadat, the left-hand opener, is the only new face in this squad.
Preliminary squad - Habibul Bashar, Shahriar Nafees, Rajin Saleh, Javed Omar, Aftab Ahmed, Mohammad Ashraful, Khaled Mashud, Alok Kapali, Tushar Imran, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mohammad Rafique, Mashrafee Bin Mortaza, Syed Rasel, Shahadat Hossain, Farhad Reza, Abdur Razzak, Sakib Al Hasan and Mehrab Hossain
Super Sixes squad - Mohammad Rafique, Mashrafee Bin Mortuza, Aftab Ahmed, Manjarul Islam, Sakib Al Hasan, Farhad Reza and Nazmus Sadat