The two players to come out of the national side’s 3-day game against Zimbabwe A are Tareq Aziz and Alamgir Kabir, who shared 15 wickets between them. Our best Test bowling line-up at this point will probably include them both. However, the choice in front of the team selectors is whether we can risk them both (and leave out Mushfiqur Rahman), given that our top-order batting has been so brittle on this tour.
If our top 5 were solid, dependable batsmen, it would make a good deal of sense to play Monjural Islam Rana at 6, Khaled Mashud at 7, followed by Mohammed Rafiq, Kabir, Aziz, and Tapash Baisya. That would give us three in-form quickies who are all likely to take wickets and two spinners also playing well. But the problem is, our top 5 doesn't allow for us to pick our best bowling attack.
If we pick Rana in place of Alok Kapali/ Al Shahriar Rokon at 6, then we probably will have to strengthen our batting by playing Mushfiq in place of either Aziz or Kabir. Rana might be doing well against domestic sides but it is yet to be seen if he can be a Test number 6. It is quite a big leap, something that most Bangladeshi players haven’t taken too successfully in the past. In case both Ashraful and Rana fail, we can't expect Mashud and the bowlers to score too many runs. We will need someone like Mushfiq who can contribute with the bat. This will weaken the bowling as Mushfiq cannot be expected to be a strike bowler and will fill the support bowler’s role.
The other option is to leave Rana out, take Kapali or Rokon at 6, and take the three in-form quickies plus Rafiq (hence, leaving Mushfiq out as well). If only Kapali or Rokon were in form, I would definitely go with this team. This would make the batting more solid and also give us quite a potent bowling line-up. I'm not really convinced that we need two spinners in Rafiq and Rana. I would prefer the three front-line quickies and our best bowler Rafiq.
At the end of the day, this entire discussion might turn out to be purely academic. The truth of the matter is, our top order is not at all dependable and both Rokon and Kapali are out of form. Therefore, Mushfiq will probably have to be picked to strengthen the lower order batting. This will mean leaving out Kabir most probably. In which case, it will be a good idea to take the second spinner in Rana and hope that he translates his pre-Test form into some useful knocks in the Test matches, batting at 6.
However, how well Bangladesh will do in the upcoming Test matches will depend largely on the four players not thus far mentioned in this write-up. If the top order, consisting of Hannan Sarkar, Shahriar Hussain, Habibul Bashar and Rajin Saleh, scores a lot of runs, it will not only take the pressure off the lower order, it will allow the bowlers to concentrate on their bowling and to taking 20 wickets. If the top order fails, the Tests will end up being about the lower order trying to provide some respectability to the score and the bowlers putting up spirited displays with the odds stacked against them. We can only hope that the top order will rise to the challenge against the one team that Bangladesh has a chance of beating.