When Imrul Kayes drove his way to a cautious century on his return to Test cricket in February this year, he had seemingly laid down the foundation for a fairy tale story. Coming to the game after a gap of nearly three years and scoring a century against the mighty Sri Lankans despite having hamstring issues, many reckoned this could be a new start to Kayes’s career.
The selectors breathed a sigh of relief for they must have thought that they could finally reach their best possible opening combination. Together, Kayes and Tamim Iqbal have scored 1,229 runs at the top at an average of 38.40. It may not seem much, but they are in fact Bangladesh’s only opening pair to have crossed the 1,000-run mark.
Kayes was even given an ODI game following his return, where he scored a fluent 59 against Pakistan in the Asia Cup and was involved in a 150-run stand with Anamul Haque at the top.
He was then sent to the West Indies with Bangladesh A soon after and performed well there as well. When all the other batsmen failed to negotiate with the bounce, Kayes led the way with a century.
However that was as good as it got for the left-hander. After being drafted into the national side for the tour of the West Indies, Imrul struggled. He scored 11 runs in the three ODIs and had scores of 9 and 25 in the only Test that he played at St. Vincent.
It seemed as though the pressure to perform had got to him. He was guilty of chasing wide deliveries and attempting too many drives in the West Indies. It was enough for the selectors to drop the left-hander for the first two Tests against Zimbabwe. However, such has been the instability of Bangladesh’s opening combination that the selectors were forced to recall Kayes for the third Test, in place of Shamsur Rahman, who had a torrid time in this series.
While Imrul was no doubt happy with the call-up, he was frustrated to have lost his spot in the first place.
“Being an opener is a challenging job. Hence there is always a change here, I think every team goes through that phase. It obviously is [frustrating]. Once you get out of the team it’s difficult to make a comeback and adjust all over again.
“I think for me this is the best chance to establish my position in the team. I have to put in my best effort and score runs. That’s all I can do,” said Kayes during Bangladesh’s training session at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong.
That Bangladesh’s opening stand is a huge concern is quite obvious from the records. The last three years have seen the Tigers use seven pairs of openers that have produced just three half-century stands in total in Test cricket.
Apart from Tamim and Kayes, the team also includes Anamul Haque. However, with Kayes having scored a century in his last Test at this venue and also being among the runs of late — he scored a century for a BCB XI on their Kolkata tour last month — he holds the edge.
The only question that remains now is whether the left-hander can utilise the opportunity, make the most of it and help solve an age-old opening problem for the Tigers.