Vol. 5 Num 926 Sat. January 06, 2007  

Spotlight on Mashud
Selectors look beyond Zimbabwe tour

The Bangladesh cricket squad that will tour Zimbabwe to play four one-day internationals next month would virtually be the team for the World Cup to be held in West Indies in March-April.

So it would be more than just the selection for a single tour when Faruque Ahmed-led national selection panel sits to pick the side for Zimbabwe and the focus definitely would be on long-standing wicketkeeper Khaled Mashud, who has been almost an automatic choice over the last decade.

It had been evident that the selectors were confused about Mashud's services as they kept the veteran stumper in the squad for the last two games against Zimbabwe in the five-match series but sidelined him. After spending time inside the dressing room, he was then dropped for the two-match series against Scotland although the selectors labelled it as rest.

Undoubtedly, Mashud is still unparalleled behind the stumps but the long-serving cricketer's batting has become a headache for the team management, especially after the just concluded Twenty20 Premier League, where he was rather off-colour.

The wicketkeeper holds a very important batting position in modern day cricket besides a specialised job and with Bangladesh transforming into a team that go for win rather than playing for 'face-saving', it would be necessary to put the right man at the right place.

The selectors have never cleared their positions about Mashud and there is hardly anybody to replace him. Chief selector Faruque says he is impressed by Mushfiqur Rahim -- the selectors' blue-eyed boy -- but the young wicketkeeper, by no means an exciting batsman, has so far not proved his worth with the gloves.

Faruque, however, was not interested to comment on this issue as he said that it was 'too early' to say anything.

"There is hardly any chance to see major changes in the team. But I think it is too early to say about any particular player. We will meet on Tuesday to discuss the squad for Zimbabwe," said Faruque.

"We should make a team for Zimbabwe tour which will likely be the World Cup team because reality is that the players will get only a week after returning from the trip," he said adding that they would announce the 15-member squad by the third week of this month.

"I won't say Mushfiq did a tremendous job in his few appearances but I must say he showed signs that he has the ability to keep his place in the national side," observed Faruque.

So it is easily understandable that the coming Premier League matches would be a big challenge for Mashud, well-known for hard-work and dedication.

Although Faruque denied to comment on the Mashud issue, it was learnt that the board has been in favour of the Rajshahi stumper for his vast experience. The board high-ups are also not ready to take risk on the World Cup and the have sent the message home in a bid to avoid controversy.

The other major issue besides Mashud to be discussed during the selection meeting is whether they would pick a genuine seamer in place of all-rounder Forhad Reza.

Forhad, another Rajshahi man, glowed in his brief career but it seems that the right-arm paceman and a useful late-order batsman can only be effective on a favourable pitch.

"No doubt Forhad has done well so far and once again I can say it is too early to comment on any particular player. But it is true that we are thinking about including a genuine third seamer considering the conditions in the Caribbean," informed Faruque.

It seems that up and coming medium pacer Dollar Mahmud has a bright chance to get a national call.