The strategy was driven from simple fact that Imrul and Rashid had spent a lot of time in the BPL franchise Comilla Victorians as teammates
Left-handed batsman Imrul Kayes, getting to bat at number six for the first time in an ODI, put up a match-winning performance and took many by surprise, but it came through a certain strategy. Riding on Imrul’s match saving unbeaten 72 and his record 128-run sixth wicket stand with Mahmudullah saw Bangladesh put up a fighting total in a crucial affair against Afghanistan in the Super Four round of the ACC Asia Cup 2018 on Monday.
The position in the batting order was not the only unfamiliar thing for Imrul as he had to fight with a change in conditions with minimum preparation. The 31-year old batsman, who batted in either opening or number three in his previous 70 ODIs, last time took part in an ODI back in last October was busy playing domestic cricket in Khulna before BCB summoned him urgently to join Tigers at Dubai.
The southpaw had to fly within a day to the hot and arid conditions of the desert country and had to take field without any preparation whatsoever.
And the opener-tuned-middle order batsman was endowed with a special responsibility to combat the dangerous Afghan spin attack, especially its spearhead, leg-spinner Rashid Khan.
The strategy was driven from simple fact that Imrul and Rashid had spent a lot of time in the BPL franchise Comilla Victorians as teammates. The tactic seemed to work as Imrul faced 25 deliveries from Rashid and scored 17 runs.
“I was told I will get to face Rashid Khan and Mujeeb (Ur Rahman). I needed to play the two spinners. Rashid Khan had played to my team in BPL. Coach had thought of that and told me that I should be able to play him well. Only thing in my mind was that I have to play Rashid Khan,” said Imrul to the media in Dubai on Monday.
Alongside his individual performance, Imrul had partnered Mahmudullah to the highest sixth wicket partnership for Bangladesh and rescued the side from a batting collapse triggered by the top order failure. Bangladesh were reeling on 87 for five when the duo took charge to navigate the innings from a wreckage. Mahmudullah had 74 off 81 while Imrul remained not out at the end of the innings.
“We (along with Mahmudullah) were thinking of a partnership. He helped me a lot in the middle and deserves all credit. There was a time when I thought I was giving dot balls. But he told me to play the way I was and that we will try till the end. We were having a good communication,” Imrul explained the chemistry of their match-winning partnership.
Despite Imrul’s performance the manner way he was selected still remains questionable. Imrul along with another opener Soumya Sarkar were brought to Dubai on an urgent basis. It is understood that the selection was based on struggle of the top order, specially the openers, and had come without involvement of the national selection panel and even Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza kept uninformed.
The incident had irked the majority in the cricketing arena of the country and feared if the practice continues it will demolish the cricket culture in future. However with drastic turn of events with Imrul coming in and pulling up a match winning performance, the concern of the event has been sidelined but not eliminated.