Soumya Sarkar and Liton Das, both talked up as among the most talented top-order batsmen in Bangladesh, have been frustratingly inconsistent in their international careers so far. With the World Cup coming up, Tamim Iqbal, the senior opening batsman, is hoping the two youngsters grab their chances as best as they can, first in the tri-series in Ireland and then at the showpiece event.
The only time Liton has really shown his ability was at last year's Asia Cup final, in which he dominated India's bowling to make 121 as Bangladesh went down off the last ball. Soumya made a sound start in 2015 but has had to mostly fight for his place in the ODI team since 2016. Earlier this year, he made a maiden Test hundred, against New Zealand in Hamilton, and yesterday, he became the first Bangladeshi to score a List A double-hundred.
Tamim said that a score like the unbeaten 208, which came in a crucial Dhaka Premier League game for Abahani Limited on Tuesday, was bound to give Soumya confidence ahead of the bigger challenges. The batsman was having an ordinary time in the league, having scored just 197 runs in 11 innings, but hit 106 and then the record double-ton in Abahani's last two matches.
"Liton and Soumya have enough chances, and I am sure this is the right time to show the world how good they are" TAMIM IQBAL
"It is a great achievement to become the first Bangladeshi to score a (List A) double-hundred," Tamim said on Wednesday. "Although we will play in completely different conditions and against vastly different bowling attacks (when on tour), scoring runs is still a positive. It will give him confidence, regardless of where he has scored these runs. If he had made 10 and 5 in his last two innings, it would have left a percentage of doubt in his mind.
"But now he knows he has scored the runs, and how he has done it. When you are in bad form, you forget how to score runs. Therefore, it is very positive for him that he has two big knocks before going to Ireland."
Since the 2015 World Cup, Tamim has had five different opening partners in ODIs: Soumya, Liton, Imrul Kayes, Anamul Haque and Mohammad Mithun. When Tamim was out with injuries occasionally in the last two years, Bangladesh used five different opening pairs. There is currently no word on who should open with Tamim in a best-case scenario, but it will be one of Soumya and Liton, the only other openers in the World Cup squad.
But while Soumya has shown that he has some form on his side, Liton followed up his poor New Zealand tour with only two fifties in eight DPL outings for Mohammedan Sporting Club. Tamim, however, felt that both batsmen could fulfil their potential in the coming months.
"A regular opening partnership means that the two know each other's game quite well," he said. "For example, if I am hitting the fielder, he needs to take that extra chance. I can do the same if the other batsman is struggling.
"But if somebody is not settled at the crease or in the team, it's very unfair to go and tell him, 'brother, now you take the risks'. But I am confident that Liton and Soumya have enough chances, and I am sure this is the right time to show the world how good they are." Tamim agreed that Bangladesh were still waiting to identify their ideal opening pair, which every successful cricket team must possess.
"It happens in every profession where your colleague of 20 years, for example, will know how you operate, and what you like and dislike. There was always understanding between some of the best opening pairs in the world like Hayden-Gilchrist, Ganguly-Tendulkar or Sehwag-Tendulkar," Tamim said. "If you look back at those games, they seem to be having fun in the middle and they each knew what the other wants.
"We haven't had that opportunity yet but those two who have been picked in the World Cup squad, I am sure they can represent Bangladesh for the next 10-15 years. I feel this is the best time for them to perform."