In Bangladesh's 15-man squad for the World Cup, 10-12 players pick themselves. That's also true for all the 10 teams participating in next month's ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 in India.
Bangladesh rested around eight of their sure starters for today's bilateral ODI series against New Zealand, with the Kiwis also opting for a similar train of thought.
Therefore, it is clear that this is a series where results don't matter as much. Call it workload management, offering game time to 'fringe' players with the potential to board the flight to India, trying out the last few sets of 'experiments,' the series against New Zealand may very well be a battle where the secondary and tertiary traits of cricket team may bear more importance than the primary ones.
Albeit secondary aspects, going into a World Cup, a proper team needs to tick all the boxes and that is exactly why Nick Pothas' men will be looking for 'results' that necessarily do not translate to direct match wins or losses, but beyond.
Speaking of results, Bangladesh lost their last seven ODIs against New Zealand. Their last victory was in 'that' Cardiff game back in 2017 where Shakib Al Hasan and a certain Mahmudullah Riyad rescued Bangladesh from the jaws of defeat whilst propelling the Tigers into the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy in the process. The duo managed that through sheer experience and that takes us to one of the points we must make.
Mahmudullah Riyad is one of those three to four players with a question mark hanging over their inclusion into the World Cup fifteen. The most important trait that Mahmudullah brings to the table is experience. In a World Cup, experience is non-negotiable.
During a mid-match coverage show on Sky Sports Cricket recently, Eoin Morgan, Nasser Hussain and Kumar Sangakkara were asked about the most important prerequisites for winning the cup. All of them acknowledged in unison that you won't be winning a World Cup without 'experience.' Experience cannot be replicated in youth, no matter what.
If Mahmudullah were to be selected for the World Cup, he wouldn't need to score brisk match-winning fifties or long-enduring hundreds on a placid Sher-e-Bangla wicket. He merely needs to make sure that he doesn't mess anything up badly. Such is the state of the lower and the lower middle-order positions in the Bangladeshi line-up.
With Mahmudullah, one other name that has to be mentioned is Soumya Sarkar. Returning as a wildcard entry at the last minute, the case of these players poses a very interesting question for the selectors.
When asked about Soumya's and Mahmudullah's expected roles in the series, captain Litton Das remained tight-lipped. However, we can assure you that Soumya Sarkar is not in line to be batting at the top order. With Tamim, Litton, Shanto, Shakib, Hridoy, Mushfiq and Miraz, Bangladesh have a settled batting lineup barring what sort of a player they are looking for lower down the order.
As things stand, Shakib and Bangladesh both are looking for a '3-D' cricketer who can contribute a few overs with the ball. The virtues of going in with six bowling options were on full display during Bangladesh's defense of a low-ish total against India earlier in the month.
Having that few extra overs gives a captain a lot of wiggle room because your main five bowlers won't always be on song together. That makes Soumya a very good choice because Shakib in the past has never shied away from extracting a few overs of medium pace out of the left-handed batter. Also being a favourite of the head coach, any decent performance from Soumya could help him board the flight to India.
However, the four innings at number six and seven that he has played in ODIs do not make his case any better. He scored only 65 runs at an average of 16.25 but has a very attractive strike rate of 111.
Mahmudullah does not bring much to the table when it comes to his off-breaks, but the experience he brings may very well overshadow other aspects. Mahedi Hasan, Nasum Ahmed, Soumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah Riyad will be out fighting for the lower-order positions, depending on the surface, situation and opposition at the World Cup.
When it comes to Tamim Iqbal, there are doubts whether he is yet fully match-fit to be bearing the burden of Bangladesh's top order for the coming few months, but this being his last shot at proper game time before the tournament kicks in, he will have to power through any residual pain from his back injury and just score some runs.
You cannot go into a World Cup without knowing your opening pair. All the successful world cup teams over the years and most of the top teams participating in the next one as well, have had a very solid core at the top. Tamim and Litton need to spend some time together on the wicket and more than individual runs, it is believed that the pair would be more focused on building partnerships and laying a solid foundation for the rest of the batters.
In modern-day ODI cricket, the middle overs are the hardest to take wickets for the bowlers. When it comes to recent Bangladesh matches, the middle order was exposed way too early in each and every game apart from one. In Tamim and Litton, Bangladesh have the two best prospects and with this series, the duo will get the much-needed game time they need to settle themselves down before the actual ball starts rolling in India.
Once the spearhead of Bangladesh's pace attack, Mustafizur Rahman showed his class in the death overs against India in the Asia Cup.
Going into the World Cup, Bangladesh need a fit and firing Fizz and for that to happen, he also needs some game time. The think tank of Bangladesh cricket will be keeping a close eye on Mustafizur's performances with both the new and the old ball. If he bowls in the first powerplay, he needs to pick wickets because he arguably is the best death bowler in the country, but he is lagging behind other pacers when it comes to making early breakthroughs.