Fazle Mahmud's evolved batting was the main reason behind his selection in Bangladesh's ODI squad for the three-match series against Zimbabwe, according to selector Habibul Bashar. Bashar said that Mahmud has become a far more stable batsman in the last three years, having begun as a big-hitter many years ago.
Mahmud struck two fifties in three innings for Bangladesh A in Ireland in August, catching the attention of Bashar, who was the selector on tour. He also made 708 runs at an average of 47.20 in this year's Dhaka Premier League List-A tournament, to top off a good run in the last three years in domestic cricket. Bashar said that Mahmud offers the "complete package" with his left-arm spin, fitness and fielding, apart from his batting.
"He's had an interesting career," Bashar said. "[Fazle Mahmud] Rabbi was in the high-performance squad about five or six years ago as a promising player. But then he lost his form. He has been in the runs again in the last three years, and there is a noticeable change in his overall game. He batted well in the A team tours. He is slightly on the older side, which we see less of when players get their first call-up. But he is a fit cricketer. We needed a batsman and although he is not like Shakib, he bowls a bit.
"He started as a flamboyant, aggressive batsman in his early days, but I have noticed in the Ireland tour that he can bat according to the team's needs. He rotates the strike, but he still has the big shots. He is now a complete batsman, which had a big influence in his selection. He is also a good fielder and bowls spin, a complete package."
Mohammad Saifuddin, the other new inclusion in the ODI side was a slightly more experimental pick, according to Bashar, as the Bangladesh thinktank wanted a bowling allrounder lower down the order. Despite the presence of Ariful Haque in the current side, Saifuddin is more likely to get the spot because of his bowling ability.
"We have been looking for a bowling allrounder at No. 7 in the Zimbabwe ODI series," Bashar said. "[Soumya Sarkar and Ariful] are batting allrounders. We expect batting first from them, and then bowling. We picked Saifuddin because he is a bowler who can contribute with the bat.
"Over the years Ariful focused on batting although he came on to the scene as a bowling allrounder. Currently, we can't expect him to bowl 10 overs. He has played as a batting allrounder, but we want someone who can bowl 10 overs and bat well too."
Bashar also said that Mominul Haque, one of three batsmen to be dropped after the Asia Cup, should not let thoughts of a permanent ODI place affect his Test batting. Mominul and Soumya made 14 and 33 runs in two matches respectively, while Mosaddek Hossain could muster only 39 runs in three outings. Mosaddek had replaced Sabbir Rahman at No. 7 while Soumya - and Imrul Kayes - were included midway through the Asia Cup by BCB president Nazmul Hassan after openers Liton Das and Nazmul Hossain Shanto failed on three occasions.
Mominul, who earlier this year became the first Bangladeshi batsman to score hundreds in both innings of a Test match, earned his place in the Asia Cup squad through his 182 in a List-A game against Ireland A in August. Bashar feels Mominul is shifting his mindset towards the shorter format.
"It would have been great had Mominul been in the runs," Bashar said. "I have noticed that his batting has changed quite a lot recently. I am not sure whether his ODI-minded batting will affect him in Tests. If it happens, it certainly wouldn't be desirable. We haven't seen him do well in Tests in recent months, although he is one of our most important Test players. We need him in that format more than we need him in ODIs."
Bashar stated said that Mominul was still "unlucky" to miss out on the ODI squad where the focus was also on seeing how some of the fringe players fared at the highest level. "I feel bad for Mominul who was unlucky to miss out on selection," Bashar said. "His ODI career is far from over. We basically had to see some other cricketers, and this is our best opportunity ahead of series against West Indies and New Zealand and the World Cup.
"He had two knocks in the Asia Cup, which I feel isn't enough for a batsman. It would have been beneficial for him had he made runs but since he couldn't and we needed to see some new players, we had to drop him."
Bashar, however, was far less sympathetic towards Mosaddek. "We are not happy with Mosaddek's form. He hasn't been able to bat functionally. We are giving him a break, and we hope he returns among runs in domestic cricket."