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Soumya Sarkar must open in Test cricket to become Bangladesh's Virender Sehwag

The team might be stacked to the deck, but the selectors must make a bold decision and find a place for Soumya Sarkar

Soumya Sarkar bats during Bangladesh’s Test series against Pakistan earlier this year

“Fear is death, fear is sin, fear is hell, fear is unrighteousness, fear is wrong life…and it is fearlessness that brings heaven in a moment.”

It was the festive Boxing Day of 2003 when India were facing Australia. At the Melbourne Cricket ground. India were batting first and scored over 300 runs even before tea break had arrived. And only one man was the reason for that.

As Simon Katich pitched a full toss ball, the eyes of Virender Sehwag bloated like that of a lion that is about to seize its prey. And he smashed it. Straight down to the throat of long on. A magnificent innings had to come to an end, an innings of 195 runs.

If anyone was an epitome of that quote by Swami Vivekananda, it was Virender Sehwag. He was just 5 runs away to reach the landmark figure even before the second session ended and had already hit a six off the prior full toss from the part-timer, but instead of ticking the balls for singles, he wanted to reach the glorious mark with one shot.

Sehwag always maintained that regardless of what his personal score was, he would go for the hit if it was in his zone.

Some criticized his swashbuckling approach in Tests, especially after his 195 went in vain as India went on to lose the game, but one can’t deny that this approach worked like a charm for him.

Striking rate in Test cricket

The importance of scoring rate in Tests is a factor that is understated. There is an ever-growing thought that playing as many balls as possible should be the approach in Tests. While this claim has its value, it falls a little short when watching Bangladesh bat in Tests.

After playing 88.1 overs in the first day of the second Test against South Africa, Bangladesh find themselves in a faltering position of 246 for 8. The great, but incredibly slow and cautious start the top order batsmen provided had all gone to vain after Mahmudullah fell to Dale Steyn.

What was the point, then, of playing such an over-cautious approach? Nada. Zilch. Nothing.

The best strike-rate among the Bangladeshi ranks was that of Shakib al-Hasan, as he muscled his way to 35 from 65 balls with a strike-rate of a mere 53.85. This is the main problem of batting at turtle’s speed. Once the wickets start to fall, the pressure mounts with a heavier burden as there aren’t many runs on the board. After batting for 88.1 overs, 300 or more runs on the board is the expected figure – and that would have allowed Bangladeshi fans to sleep better at night.

But thankfully for Bangladesh, they have a solution waiting on the wings: Soumya Sarkar.

The in-form player has been the breakthrough star of the season and it’s that fearless approach of his that shot him to glory. An average of just over 21 in three Tests might suggest that he is not one for the longest version of the game, but what is worth noting is that he played at number 7 in all those three appearances.

In ODIs, though, his stats are nothing short of astute. They are splendid; an average of a little over 49 with a strike-rate of 102.51. The majority of his runs come in the form of boundaries and it is for this reason, specifically, that he should be opening the innings even in Tests.

Virender Sehwag wasn’t known for steaming to-and-fro on the pitch to score runs. Majority of his runs came in the form of boundaries as well – and, another similarity that Sarkar has with him, it was his terrific hand-eye coordination that allowed him to smack the ball almost anywhere.

After winning the man-of-the-series against South Africa for an outstanding display of stroke-play with the bat, he was supposed to be the default name on the starting XI of Bangladesh in Tests. A minor injury to Mushfiqur Rahim, that doesn’t allow him to keep wickets, was the only reason why Litton Das was chosen over and the latter has also justified his selection with a 50 in the first Test.

The team might be stacked to the deck, but the selectors must make a bold decision and find a place for Soumya Sarkar. Some might say he is reckless, others might say he is a slogger, but so was Sehwag and it was that fearless approach of the latter that made the Indian team one of the most dreaded Test units in the world.

And Soumya Sarkar is the most fearless batsmen Bangladesh possess right now.

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