Vol. 5 Num 640 Fri. March 17, 2006  

Al Shahriar denied justice?

Bangladesh go into the ODI series against Kenya, carrying decent form from the just concluded series against Sri Lanka. Mohammad Ashraful, Habibul Bashar and Aftab Ahmed have all done well especially when it mattered. Alok Kapali, coming back after a long layoff has also done enough to be picked against Kenya.

But the tried and tested openers have done little to prove themselves once again. Good starts at the top of the order give a solid foundation and provide a base for a good total. But time and again, the Bangladesh openers have been unsuccessful.

Consistency in persevering with an opening pair is also something to consider. The series against Sri Lanka saw the opening pair being changed from a Nafees-Saleh pairing to a more regular Nafees-Javed Omar pairing in the final two matches after the former had failed. Rajin Saleh, the reserve opening option has been irregular in the team for quite some time now. Even after getting into some form in the successful series against Zimbabwe back in 2004-05, injury led to his downfall. He has only scored 13 runs in his ODI appearances in the series against Sri Lanka. Besides, captain Habibul Bashar has not tried his occasional off-breaks, which is an additional strength of the diminutive cricketer from Sylhet.

Shahriar Nafees's form can also be described as patchy at best. Only one half-century over the period of the last five ODI's, his Test form has also dipped recently, culminating in two rash shots in the last Test against Sri Lanka. Javed Omar is the only one who looks solid, but he too has not been able to combine well with Nafees since making a comeback in the ODI fold.

At the domestic front, discarded Al Shahriar is a standout performer in all competitions this season. Starting from the Corporate League to the Premier League and now the National League, Al Shahriar has been the man who has caught the eye. He has scored heavily in both versions of the game. He was the highest run-scorer among the local players in the Premier League, and also scored heavily in the four-day version. So far he has notched up 492 runs, which includes one century for Dhaka.

A natural stroke-maker, the gangling right-hander has the ability to take the opponent attack to the sword when there are more fielding restrictions in place.

But his penchant to play a lot of shots has not helped his cause earlier but this season he has looked in total control and the consistency has been a new element to his batting, even at the domestic level.

Unfortunately, he has failed to impress the selectors even after being in such good form. Let alone being picked for the national team, he was even neglected for the Bangladesh A team that plays against Sri Lanka A in the first Test starting from March 23.

"There's no doubt that he's the man in form. But I feel sympathetic towards him because his previous inconsistency at the international level have gone against him when it came to being selected for Bangladesh or the A team this time", said former Bangladesh captain Raquibul Hassan when contacted over telephone.

No doubt Al-Shahriar had got enough opportunities at the highest level before being finally dropped after the Australia tour in July 2003. But three years is a very long time for a player of his quality to redeem himself. He might be criticised for his often casual approach.

But isn't it a bit harsh for not giving him a fair chance after what he has done at the domestic level when the selectors have categorically mentioned that domestic performance is the prime criterion for a player to get into the national fold.