Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim has made a request to put less pressure on Imrul Kayes, Sabbir Rahman and Soumya Sarkar during the upcoming tour of South Africa. His request came at the end of the press conference which at times veered into the polemic when he poked, with a smile on his face, at Shakib Al Hasan.
All three players had a tough time in the Australia Tests earlier this month with only Sabbir scoring a half-century. Imrul and Soumya had an ordinary time, getting out softly at times and showing deficiencies against pace and spin. There has been a lot of speculation about these two top-order batsmen while Sabbir's role in the second innings of the second Test was also confusing to some.
"Every player wants to do well," Mushfiqur said. "There has been a lot of talk about Imrul, Sabbir and Soumya. While criticism is acceptable, please don't do it unnecessarily as they will go further into their comfort zone. If they can't perform, Bangladesh will lose more. It will take a lot of time to replace these players. It is hard to perform consistently so please don't question them repeatedly. If they do badly, at least they will know that people around them are supportive."
Bangladesh have many questions in their batting line-up, including finding the right opening combination and whether Mominul Haque and Mushfiqur will bat in the top order. The question of replacing the resting Shakib is also another area of concern although they have picked the experienced Mahmudullah who will likely bat at No 4 or 5.
Mushfiqur said that those replacing Shakib have a great opportunity in front of them in South Africa, although he added he only heard about his request for the break - an unprecedented move in Bangladesh cricket - only when Shakib informed the board president.
"We need two players to replace Shakib. It is a bad news for a captain that the No. 1 player is missing. But those who will play in his place have a great opportunity in front of them. We played without Shakib against West Indies, Zimbabwe and New Zealand and we won, but we will still miss him. I hope he can use the break to recover fully.
"I heard about it when he spoke to the board president. I prepared mentally, but you cannot replace him. Cricket is a team game. If we can play as a team, we can do well," he said.
Mushfiqur, however, didn't respond whether he would also consider a break, only saying: "I haven't become such a big player that I will need a break."