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Tamim's inclusion and Mustafizur's axing headline the Bangladesh squad for Rawalpindi Test

Tamim Iqbal

Bangladesh's 14-member Test squad for the first Test of the two-match series against Pakistan at Rawalpindi looks a lot different from the last time they featured in a Test series.

While Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Nazmul Hossain Shanto and Rubel Hossain are the ones included in the Test squad, Mehidy Hasan, Mustafizur Rahman, Imrul Kayes, Shadman Islam and Mosaddek Hossain are the ones to miss out.

Tamim and Sarkar impart substance to the batting

While Tamim Iqbal was unavailable for the last Test series, first due to a groin injury and then in anticipation of becoming a father, Imrul Kayes and Mosaddek Hossain were preferred over Soumya Sarkar. However, following their lean returns in the the Test series against India, Sarkar is back in the reckoning and has been picked both as a backup opener and a middle order batsman.

Shadman Islam and Imrul Kayes were tried as openers in the two-match Test series against India. While the partnership could only last for six runs each in both innings of the first Test, they added 15 and 26 respectively in the two innings of the second fixture.

The team's search for a good top order batsman coincided with an impressive outing in the Bangladesh Premier League for Najmul Hossain Santo. Shanto scored 308 runs from 11 innings, including an unbeaten century in the last edition of the BPL to find a place in the squad.

"We have always kept Nazmul under our radar and he is scoring regularly in domestic cricket," chief selector Minhajul Abedin said. "After Shadman was ruled out of the opening Test due to his wrist injury, we felt that it is the right time to re-introduce Nazmul at international level and I am sure he will make it count this time. He is more matured now with his skill and approach.

"Soumya was included as we don't have many back-up for openers but at the same time he also gives us some flexibility in batting order. He has shown that he can bat well down the order as well."

The Fizz slides down the pecking order

Abu Jayed ended as the top wicket-taker for Bangladesh in the last Test series against India, followed by Ebadot Hossain and Al-Amin Hossain. Al-Amin got to play only one game, that was the day-night Test at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, but seemed very impressive and will be a part of the starting XI.

At the same time, Mustafizur Rahman leaked a lot of runs in the T20Is. He followed it up with a good Bangladesh Premier League outing where he picked up 20 wickets. But, the left-arm pacer proved ineffective in the two T20Is against Pakistan and will now have to go through the grind of domestic cricket to earn back his Test spot.

"Mustafizur was dropped due to poor form. He is not regular member of our Test XI in the recent past for many reasons," Abedin added.

"We feel that he should spend some good amount of time in the domestic tournament to make sure he gets the bowling fitness that is required to play longer-version cricket. We all know he is a champion bowler but somehow he is unable to meet our expectations and we feel that he is also lacking match fitness to some extent."

Test Championship standing

Bangladesh was one of the last teams to start in the ICC World Test Championship cycle 2019-21 and have played only two Test matches till now. Both of them were against India where the team lost by big margins and hence, is yet to open its account.

Bangladesh are placed at the bottom among nine Test Championship teams and will have to buck up in this series against Pakistan in order to have any realistic chance of ending among the top six.

The Rawalpindi Test will be played from February 7 to February 11. It is part of a two-match Test Championship series. The second installment of the series will be played in April, following the completion of Pakistan's premier domestic T20 competition, the Pakistan Super League.

Bangladesh squad for first Test: Mominul Haque (c), Tamim Iqbal, Saif Hasan, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Mahmudullah, Mohammad Mithun, Liton Das, Taijul Islam, Nayeem Hasan, Ebadat Hossain, Abu Jayed Chowdhury Rahi, Al-Amin Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Soumya Sarkar

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