Do Bangladesh even need selectors?

Soumya Sarkar was bowled by Ashley Nurse' quicker delivery CWI

Minhajul Abedin and Habibul Bashar should step down as selectors. The addition of Imrul Kayes and Soumya Sarkar to Bangladesh's Asia Cup squad is the latest in a long list of interferences in which the selectors, both giants in their playing days, have been completely bypassed in a selection matter. This time it has emerged that the selectors weren't even consulted in the selection procedure. If this is the way players are going to be picked to play for Bangladesh, why even have selectors?

Akram Khan, BCB's cricket operations chairman, confirmed on Friday evening that Imrul and Soumya were included after the team management asked board president Nazmul Hassan, present in the UAE, for one opener.

"Tamim's absence has made the opening positions unstable," Akram said on Friday. "Team management wanted one opener but without taking any risk, we have brought in two openers. We have included Imrul Kayes and Soumya Sarkar after discussions between team management and the board chief.

"Liton [Das] and [Nazmul Hassan] Shanto haven't scored runs, so naturally this is what we have had to come up with. We have to score 240-250 in these wickets. We have brought Soumya and Imrul because they couldn't perform."

Akram, who by dint of his position is also part of the selection committee, did not even mention chief selector Minhajul, who is also traveling with the team. If common sense lived up to its definition, he should have at least been part of the conversation. Instead, it has been established that the selectors are no longer working independently, and are in fact, often forced to be mute spectators in the decision-making process itself. To compound matters this time, even the captain Mashrafe Mortaza was unaware of the new additions to the squad, as he clarified after the eight-wicket loss to India.

Over the last two years, these practices have been normalised. Ever since Minhajul was made chief selector following Faruque Ahmed's resignationin 2016, there have been repeated instances of Hassan announcing players before and after series. It started in the Afghanistan ODI series in 2016 - the first under the revamped selection policy in which the BCB chief included Chandika Hathurusingha (then the Bangladesh head coach), Akram (operations committee chairman) and Khaled Mahmud (as Bangladesh team manager), in addition to the appointed selectors.

The interference has not just come from the top. Minhajul has had to accommodate requests from the team management on at least two occasions this year alone. On both occasions, Soumya was added to the T20I squads in June and August, because the "team management wanted him".

While Minhajul and Bashar have never publicly said they were unhappy with this situation, given how powerless they have been rendered by invasive board policies, it makes one wonder whether they are required at all.

Hathurusingha had always maintained that Bangladesh's head coach must be in the selection panel. And the BCB has also shown an inclination to have a "player's voice" in the panel, in this case through Mahmud - a BCB director and team manager - as their representative.

This expanded selection committee is in any case a flawed concept, because selectors should be independent of any other position to maintain fairness. Minhajul and Bashar are only selectors, unlike Mahmud, who is also a board director, development committee chairman, team manager and coach of DPL and BPL sides. Conflict of Interest does not come more blatant.

As the cricket operations head, Akram is essentially the selectors' boss, so his presence in the same selection committee is quite baffling. There could be a case for the head coach to have a selector's position but in other countries, its duality has been questioned. Hathurusingha, for his part, had to convince the BCB chief to become a selector, not the other way around. What then is the point of having two respected former cricketers wasting their time in roles that have been forced into irrelevance?

Interestingly, Minhajul and Bashar both suffered selection troubles in their playing career. Minhajul wasn't originally part of Bangladesh's first World Cup squad in 1999, only to be added due to a public demand. The same was true for Bashar when Bangladesh's inaugural Test squad was announced in 2000.

Both Minhajul and Bashar are highly respected figures in Bangladesh cricket. Minhajul is regarded by many as their best batsman through the 1980s and 1990s, while Bashar's 3000-plus Test runs are not overlooked either. They both are technically sound individuals who have much to offer as selectors.

But when selectors, especially former cricketers of the stature of these two, are being consistently bypassed in the actual decision-making, a dangerous trend is bound to be set. What becomes the future of selectors in Bangladesh? Will the next set of selectors also be pushed into irrelevance?

And potentially, this also raises broader questions about Bangladesh cricket, specifically about the way in which the BCB handles its team.