Bangladesh will be favourites once again. ©ACC

Salma Khatun will lead Bangladesh in their defence of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifiers in Scotland beginning on August 31. The squad was announced on Sunday (August 11) evening via social media.

Despite the absence of Rumana Ahmed due to injury, Bangladesh have put together a strong squad that includes Jahanara Alam, Khadija Tul Kubra, Ayasha Rahman, Nahida Akter and Fargana Hoque. Panna Ghosh, the tall right-arm seamer who took five wickets in the final of last year’s tournament, misses out, while Sobhana Mostary, the 17-year-old batting allrounder, who was part of the Bangladesh Emerging squad recently, earned her maiden call-up to the T20I squad.

Alam and Fargana were recently part of ICC’s Women’s Global Development squad that toured England for six T20 matches. Both enjoyed much success in 2018. The former picked up her first T20I five-for, bowled several memorable spells in the 2018 ICC Women’s World T20 and finally earned a call-up to play for Velocity in the Women’s T20 Challenge; while the latter scored 348 runs in the span of 12 months including two half centuries— the first of which headlined Bangladesh’s first ever T20I win over India in the 2018 Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur.

As always, Bangladesh will go into the tournament with a spin-heavy attack. Khadija Tul Kubra, Shaila Sharmin and Salma Khatun are the off-spinners, Nahida Akter, the left-arm spinner, and Fahima Khatun, the leg-spinner in the squad. Ritu Moni, who had a successful stint with the Bangladesh Emerging squad in South Africa last month, and Sanjida Islam, with her part-time seamers, will back up Alam in the pace department.

Ayasha Rahman, the hard-hitting top order batter, will lead the team’s charge with the bat alongside Fargana, Nigar Sultana and Shamima Sultana.

The 2018 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in the Caribbean greatly exposed the gulf between the top eight teams and the rest. Bangladesh largely struggled through the tournament with the bat, unable to score freely. Their batters were quite easily tied down and showed no intent to score quickly.

One batter who could possibly change that approach at the top is Sanjida Islam, who up until now has batted in the lower middle-order for Bangladesh as a pinch hitter. During Bangladesh Emerging’s tour of South Africa, she showcased her power and ability to wield the long handle in the final T20 against South Africa Emerging in Pretoria earlier this month. The right-hander smashed an unbeaten 58-ball 73 at the top of the order, including eight fours and a six.

While much of the batting unit remains the same, Bangladesh have also attempted to infuse some fresh blood into the squad. Murshida Khatun, who had a decent outing with the bat in South Africa, has earned a call-up,  and Mostary, the teenager, will strengthen the line-up.

Bangladesh, who beat Ireland in the final of the 2018 Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifiers will kick off their campaign against Papua New Guinea on August 31.

Squad: Salma Khatun (captain), Jahanara Alam, Fargana Hoque Pinky, Sobhana Mostary, Khadija Tul Kubra, Fahima Khatun, Nigar Sultana Joty, Murshida Khatun, Nahida Akter, Sanjida Islam, Ritu Moni, Ayasha Rahman, Shaila Sharmin, Shamima Sultana. 

Stand byes: Suraya Azmim, Lata Mondal, Sharmin Akter Supta.

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