Bangladesh Test captain Mominul Haque has put the size of their 19-member squad for the second Test against Pakistan down to unavailability of several senior players through injury and retirement rather than any experimentation tactics.
Bangladesh are without Tamim Iqbal because of a thumb injury. Shakib Al Hasan missed most of the Tests this year, while Mahmudullah recently retired from he format. Taskin Ahmed was injured for the Chattogram Test, but both he and Shakib are available for the Dhaka Test starting Saturday. So the make-up of the home side's squad for the upcoming fixture had given the impression that their selection committee and team management were unsure of the combination to field after going down by eight wickets in the opening Test.
"We are not really experimenting by just bringing in younger players," Mominul said of having that large a squad. "We replaced Tamim bhai who is injured. [Mohammad] Naim has come in as [a potential] back-up opener for New Zealand [considering the upcoming tour]. Rabbi [Yasir Ali] played the first Test in Shakib bhai's place. Riyad [Mahmudullah] bhai has retired. We have had to take new players. We don't have a lot of performing players. When the senior players will return, we will have these younger players around in the dressing room. If others are performing in domestic cricket, they will certainly be considered in the team."
The main talking point from the squad was Mohammad Naim's inclusion. A T20 specialist, the left-hand opener played the last of his six first-class matches last year. He doesn't have a great record in the longer formats as he has focused mostly on T20Is since his international debut two years ago. By contrast, Anamul Haque, who as an opener averages 63.15 in first-class cricket in the last three years with five centuries, was overlooked.
Mominul explained that Naim, who has been a regular in the T20I set-up, has been picked as the back-up opener after Saif Hassan contracted typhoid fever, though he hinted that uncapped Mahmudul Hasan Joy is likely to fill the vacant opener's spot.
"We don't have enough openers. Naim is someone who has been playing international cricket regularly," he said. "He has played T20s recently, which is why he missed a lot of first-class cricket. We wanted an opener who has been playing international cricket. An opener from domestic cricket would have a tough time adjusting in this situation. We also have to consider the New Zealand tour."
Mominul said he was pleased to have a fit-again Shakib back in the side. The senior allrounder, who picked up a hamstring injury during the T20 World Cup match against West Indies which has forced him to miss six matches for his side since, passed a fitness test last week. And Shakib's return means Bangladesh have the option of including five genuine bowlers as well as slot in an additional experienced batter in their top six.
"Shakib bhai makes it easy to make a team combination," he said. "He is looking good. He has recovered from the injury. He makes life easier for any captain. He is important for team combination. His return is a positive thing for us."
But can Bangladesh, who have won only two out of their last 13 international matches stretching back to September, eke out a win against Pakistan in Dhaka? Mominul believes if they can bat for the best part of two days they stand a chance to level the series, but would also need to start well with the ball. They were down 49 for 4 and 25 for 4 in the Chattogram Test, where they also conceded opening partnerships worth 146 and 151.
"The most important thing in the Test match is the first hour, regardless of who is batting," he said. "If we can start well, things will be easier. Our strength is batting, so if we can bat for five or six sessions, we can certainly be in the game. We are going out there to win the Test."