Bangladesh's selectors will keep one eye on the progress of the country's next batch of elite cricketers as they pick their first senior team for the 2020-21 season in the coming few weeks. West Indies will be arriving on January 10 to play three ODIs and two Tests, and although a truncated tour, it is a much-needed competition for the home side who haven't played any international cricket since hosting Zimbabwe this March.
Chief selector Minhajul Abedin said that due to the strict bio-bubble rules, they will be picking two extra players in the ODI squad. Although new faces are not immediately expected with the selectors keen on continuity from the Zimbabwe series, there's no denying that the powers-that-be will be looking forward to blooding some youngsters while keeping the 2023 ODI World Cup as the immediate goal.
Abedin thus highlighted that he was impressed with some of the younger players in the recently concluded Bangabandhu T20 Cup, many of whom were also part of the BCB's High Performance programme for 2020.
"As the training begins on January 7, we will announce the preliminary squad early next month," Abedin said. "Keeping the pandemic in mind, we will be picking a 17-man squad for the ODI series. It is difficult to get in and out of the bio-bubble, so we have to be prepared. It would be difficult to pick players from a T20 tournament into the ODI set-up, but it is also true that the local players got to play T20s after a long time - [and] some of them for the first time. They played fearlessly. The HP [High Performance] players did well in these tournaments. We have the programme set in place to understand better who will play in which format."
After the postponement of the High Performance unit's tour to Sri Lanka in September, they finally got together to hold a camp from October to November. Toby Radford, the new head coach who succeeded Simon Helmot at the High Performance set-up, focused on helping the batsmen understand shot selection, especially against the red ball. At the same time, he also found out several pace bowlers coming through the ranks, some of whom had impressed him at the BCB President's Cup held this October.
Shortly after the High Performance unit's first training camp ended in November, Radford said that there were couple of players who could make the step up, while others required more work.
"There are some players who are a ready product, who can play in an international team tomorrow," he said. "There are a couple of other younger players who have all the attributes to play international cricket, but they may need to get stronger, fitter or tactically a bit more aware. One or two may need a bit of technical work. We hoped to achieve a good balance of technical and tactical work on the three different formats."
"Obviously, I think having fast bowlers available is going to be a big thing for us. [We're] making sure we cover ourselves with some quality back-up in that department not just for the home series, but also for the away series."Bangladesh head coach Russell Domingo
Radford was also keen to get players fully ready for the top level, that too for varied overseas conditions and not just at home. "There also has to be gaps in the team as well. If the team is performing, it is difficult to get in whether the players are ready or not. I have seen some players who stood out for me. They have to keep improving but they need the opportunity."
"But there are a couple of things for me," he said. "One, you don't want players to go in before they are ready. The second point is that it is not about only doing well in Bangladesh. It is about performing in other parts of the world - like England, Australia or South Africa. I am trying to develop their technical and tactical play good enough for wherever they play."
Bangladesh head coach Russell Domingo, however, said they have ample cover for the ODI squad to face West Indies, which will be the first time that Shakib Al Hasan will be named in the national team following the expiry of his ban. Their ODI squad to face Zimbabwe earlier this year had also included both Mehidy Hasan and Afif Hossain as all-round cover - considering Mehidy is a handy lower-order batsman while Hossain bowls occasional offspin - but Domingo put emphasis in having more fast bowlers around the squad.
"We have got a few guys who can double up as allrounders", Domingo said. "The spinners can offer something with the bat, so I don't think there's too much of an issue having [batting] cover. Obviously, I think having fast bowlers available is going to be a big thing for us. [We're] making sure we cover ourselves with some quality back-up in that department not just for the home series, but also for the away series."
Domingo also pointed out that a few young cricketers stood out during the televised Bangabandhu Cup, but echoed Radford in saying that they must be fully prepared for the highest level.
"There's obviously been some good performances in T20 cricket," he said. "Guys like Shoriful [Islam] have done well. [Parvez Hossain] Emon got a good hundred [for Barishal against Rajshahi], but there's a big difference between a domestic T20 competition and ODI or Test cricket.
"So whilst there are some talented young players around, it is important that they are given time to develop their game, so that when they do come into the international game they are ready to perform and able to hold their own against high-quality sides."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84