If Soumya Sarkar hadn’t scored 169 against New Zealand in Nelson yesterday, where would he be in the following game? With Soumya serving as the lens, that is the poignant question surrounding Bangladesh’s cricket team.
The southpaw had recently participated in the Emerging Asia Cup in Sri Lanka, an event that was not only inappropriate for his age group but also required him to bat at number six due to the squad’s abundance of openers.
Before the ODI World Cup, the national team’s think tank had thought it would be a good enough testing ground to watch Soumya’s performance. Naturally, though, he was being pushed to fill in as a bit player with so many openers.
After that, he participated in a home series against New Zealand and, as a result of his poor performances, was left off of India’s World Cup roster. The 30-year-old was not the player the team had previously considered for the opening spot at the peak tournament, but they still faced a dilemma. Here, decisions are rarely logical.
There has been a consistent trend of subpar play and poor choices involving injured athletes. Soumya has frequently been employed as a temporary fix in the past. The trials are not concluded because the procedure always uses temporary solutions.
For example, he was flown to the 2018 Asia Cup in Dubai when stars like Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal suffered injuries, and he was then drafted into a Test match against Afghanistan in 2019 as the lone pacer. It was unthinkable that he being picked for the New Zealand series again.
After a lackluster performance with bat and ball in the opening ODI of the New Zealand tour, coach Chandika Hathurusingha stated he had scored runs in domestic cricket and added that they needed someone who could “bowl and bat” in Shakib’s absence.
Records show that Soumya only averaged 26.63 in the most recent Dhaka Premier League, although he improved his totals with a century in the league’s penultimate dead rubber match.
But he did score in the National Cricket League, with four fifties and an average of over 48 in 11 innings. However, that does not excuse his inclusion, any more than the head coach’s supposed job was justified.
In addition to playing seldom as a result of subpar performances, Soumya has, to put it mildly, had patchy batting placements. He had opened in 39 innings, but prior to this series, he had only opened once, in 2019. In that instance, he averaged about 36 innings with a strikeout rate of slightly over 100.
Since 2018, the majority of his ODI outings have been in the middle order, where he has averaged 15 and made three appearances at number 7. He was never going to be easy and would always have challenges.
It’s wonderful that we supported the coach’s decision to include him in the squad. “We must adhere to the coach’s strategy, and it is evident that he has plans for the future. He believes Soumya is suitable for seaming conditions in locations such as Australia or New Zealand,” cricket operations chairman Jalal Yunus told reporters yesterday in response to a question about whether the management’s faith was restored.
He was a one-off, hitting until the final over of yesterday’s game with 22 fours and two sixes. While New Zealand missed opportunities on the field, he also rode his luck. That won’t, however, occur each time. What would happen if Soumya returned to Mirpur wickets that had low or irregular bounce is the next question.
“We cry more often than we laugh as cricketers. We play well in one or two games, but the others don’t go well,” Soumya stated yesterday. His words, “The next ton may come in the next game,” were modest.
Bangladesh cricket needs to stop viewing players as components of predetermined templates, even as he strives to become consistent and capitalize on his form. If not, stroke makers like him would simply experience more suffering.
Rather than preserving his career, his century turns out to be a lifesaver for the management, who believe they have put their trust in him. But after a poor outing or two, Soumya would either be moved back down to lower middle position or discarded altogether without having his position explained.