Bangladesh's squad for their one-off Test against Zimbabwe has been announced and the big news is, Mahmudullah Riyad has been left out.
There are some other changes as well. Soumya Sarkar is on leave to tie the knot and seamers Rubel Hossain and Al-Amin Hossain have also been dropped.
Instead of them, Mushfiqur Rahim has returned to the side along with Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed and Mehidy Miraz. Also, Yasir Ali Chowdhury and Hasan Mahmud have been called up for the first time in Tests.
Mahmudullah dropped: Big news but not a shock
Mahmudullah's exclusion is not a surprise as speculations about him being dropped had hovered around the country's cricketing arena since the team returned from Pakistan. Mahmudullah was heavily criticised for his dismissal in the second innings against Pakistan. Youngster Naseem Shah was on a hat-trick and Mahmudullah flashed hard at a wide delivery to see himself caught at slip.
Mahmudullah's recent record in Tests has also been under-par. The veteran batsman has only scored one fifty in his last five Tests, scoring 189 runs at a dismal average of 21. And despite having scored a century against Zimbabwe in the sides' last affair in 2018, Mahmudullah had to receive the axe for his abysmal showing in recent times.
Selector Minhajul Abedin said that they felt that "Mahmudullah required a break from red-ball cricket" and thus decided to leave him out.
Former cricketer Ishtiaque Ahmed though was against dropping Mahmudullah and believed that the veteran batsman could have been provided with an opportunity to regain his form against Zimbabwe.
"The reason behind dropping Mahmudullah is his recent poor performances. But still, he has loads of experience in international cricket. That is why dropping him is not a sensible decision for me," he said.
Ishtiaque further added, "I think they should have given Mahmudullah a chance against Zimbabwe, who are not that strong a side, to regain his form. I am personally disappointed to see Mahmudullah dropped."
Ishtiaque also added that there was no assurance that the players coming in for Mahmudullah would perform.
"I am not saying that he has played very well in recent times but is there any guarantee that the ones coming in his place would perform? The case is not that Mahmudullah is too old or unfit to not be in the side. I am not in support of dropping him," he added.
Two pacers dropped, three brought in
Rubel was handed a return to Test cricket in the first Test against Pakistan but failed to impress the selectors. As a result, he has been left out and also Minhajul said that Rubel was not in their long-term plan for Tests.
Al-Amin was left out to recover from his niggles and Mustafiz, Taskin and Hasan have come into the side.
That makes the pacer count in this squad rise up to five. But this also puts up a question about the wicket as Bangladesh generally provides the teams with a spinner-friendly track in Mirpur.
There are three spinners in the team as well in Taijul Islam, Mehidy and Nayeem Hasan. All of these put a cloud over how the wicket will behave as Bangladesh have reinforced themselves well in both the spin and seam departments.
Former Bangladesh seamer Talha Jubair assumed that as there are five seamers in the squad, there might be some grass on the wicket.
"Five seamers are in the squad but obviously all of them will not play. A lot of things will depend on if the wicket has a tinge of grass, how the team management have planned. But as they have picked up five seamers, I think there will be some grass on the wicket," he said.
Having grass on the wicket might be suicidal for Bangladesh because Bangladeshi batsmen have often struggled against swing. But Talha believed that Bangladesh are not yet in a position to be worried by Zimbabwe's bowling lineup.
"We might not be doing well in Tests but that does not mean that we would perform poorly against Zimbabwe too. Mustafiz and Taskin have returned and if there is grass on the wicket, then I don't think it will be bad for us. The only thing I intend to say is we are not in a position to be bothered by Zimbabwe's bowling attack," Talha added.
He further added that it was good for Taskin to be back as he had worked hard to get his place in the national team back after a lot of setbacks caused by injuries.
Bangladesh are going through a turbulent time as they have lost all of their last six Tests. They must turn it around against Zimbabwe, which is not a part of the World Test Championship. Some questions have been raised after announcing the squad and if they don't manage to turn things around, questions will only increase in number.