Six batsmen appear to be set for the tour to England this May, barring injuries. Javed Omar has been discussed to death but at present, there are no experienced alternative openers for what is likely to be a critical tour in terms of Bangladesh's perception in the Test arena. Besides, the chief selector has already hinted to "not changing a winning team" in the local media. Hence, on a touring squad that should have 7 batsmen, the probables are:
JO BelimNafis AhmedHabibul BasharMd. AshrafulRajin SalehAftab Ahmed
There remains, thus the 7th spot. The debate seems to be focused between Tushar Imran & Manjurul Rana, with Shahriar Nafees mentioned by a few. What do the numbers tell though? The following chart includes Top 10 averages of those who have played at least three NCL rounds followed by at least two. The averages from the Duleep & Zim A tours are also included in the table.
If one merely uses performance in the away tours as a prominent factor, then Tushar appears to move ahead with a leading tour average of 39.17 in Zimbabwe's seamer friendly conditions (Musfique's average is aided by an outlier - his 111*). Tushar after all is a bona-fide batsmen. In addition, his occasional off-breaks provide much needed variety to the side's spin attack. The argument against Tushar has been his tendency to play one shot too many, an affliction, many other Bangladeshi batsmen suffer from. Perhaps as a result of this, Tushar lacks any recent centuries in the 1st class cricket.
His competitor, Rana also did fairly well against seamer dominated attacks in India. As usual, his performance was often in rear-guard situations, but an average of 30 when the nearest specialist batsmen are averaging 23 & 22, allows him to put his hands up to be included. However he is not a specialist batsmen, and his technique, especially against faster bowlers invites questions.
Rana stands out tall?
Once, however NCL performance is factored in, Rana stands out tall. Tushrar played one match and scored 0 & 68 respectively. Rana on the other hand has a big hundred, a few decent innings under pressure, and quite a healthy average. He is yet another SLA but his fastish darts with canny variations of pace may prove to be useful in early English summer conditions.
Obviously, a consideration in the use of averages is the Not Out factor. In the past, Rana, through sheer determination has often managed to outlast the tail while scoring few runs and drawing a rash of oohs and aahs from errant edges and near misses. However, in the matches considered here, Rana had 0 NOs out of 4 innings in the Duleep tour, and 2 NOs out of 6 innings in NCL. The averages in this situation seem indicative enough.
The numbers must now be put in context of the tour itself. The England tour will expose Bangladeshi batsmen to one of their many nemesis': the swinging / seaming balls. Recent performances notwithstanding, it is highly likely that Bangladesh will suffer top order collapses during the Test matches. On such situations, a grafter such as Rana might be preferable to a gifted strokeplayer like Tushar. Also, Rana's presence would add a much needed southpaw to the batting line up - something which could act to disrupt the bowling rhythm of the English bowlers (when the ball is bending round the corners, control is actually quite difficult).
At this point Shahriar Nafis must be discounted. While his performance in Zimbabwe was satisfactory, he is currently taking an extended break due to academic pursuits, and as such likely to lack match fitness to certain extent. More important, the coming English tour is not the best of tours to blood rank rookies.
It thus appears that the 7th batting spot of the tour should go to Manzurul Islam Rana. Until a few more of the talented under 19 batters graduate to the senior team (Mushfique, Shahriar could soon follow Nafis & Aftab), Rana - with his faulty but effective style and all, looks likely to force his way into the side.