October 10, 2013.
The first Test between Bangladesh and New Zealand at Chittagong.
The Blackcaps had put up a strong first innings score of 469.
In reply, openers Tamim Iqbal and Anamul Haque had departed with only 8 runs on the board.
The familiar Bangladeshi collapse was anticipated. The kind of collapse which has been the regular since Bangladesh’s introduction to Test cricket in 2000.
Bangladesh and collapses; it’s like bread and butter. Well, for the opposition bowlers anyway.
Mominul and Marshall Ayub partnered up after the openers departed. Mominul raced through 50 having only faced 36 balls. He ended the day with 77 to his name.
Thanks to Mominul, Bangladesh pulled themselves out of that wobbly start and finished the day strongly. He didn’t go after the Kiwi bowlers from the outset, it was a calm, measured and a calculative approach. He timed it beautifully.
On day three, Mominul picked up where he left off on day two and dictated terms for the rest of time he spent at the crease. He survived a couple of close calls when he edged a few and skied one towards deep point, but reached his maiden century off 98 balls.
After that 100, he paced his innings slowly, took another 150 balls to get to 150. He made absolutely vital contributions alongside Marshall, Shakib Al-Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim to propel Bangladesh to a safe position.
By the time he got out at 181, Bangladesh had survived the follow on. Later Nasir Hossain and Sohag Gazi drove Bangladesh towards a first innings lead.
It was a classy knock from Mominul. It was almost flawless, barring few wobbles. It was a joy to watch from a Test cricket lover’s point of view. Even a brutal and harsh critique like Devon Mace (chief editor of Mind the Windows!) was full of praise for that knock. It was graceful. It was a blissful watch.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Am I really that ‘brutal and harsh’? I do love Mominul though. Incredible. He single-handedly ended Bruce Martin’s Test and domestic career.]
The prominence of that innings from Mominul couldn’t be overstated, especially given the circumstances when he came to the crease. Even though he had a few Tests under his belt with two Test fifties, both against Sri Lanka, his place in the team wasn’t fully cemented.
That innings not only sealed his place in the Test side, but also pointed out what Bangladesh had been missing at the number three position over the years. Someone with a sheer calmness who would understand his role perfectly, would go on about his business and get the job done. Bangladesh found another missing piece of the puzzle.
So while everyone was full of praise for Mominul, I on other hand didn’t want to get carried away even though it was a near-flawless, classy knock. Especially given that Bangladesh cricket has the knack of ruining the likes of Mehrab Hossain, Mohammad Ashraful, Al Shahriar, Rajin Saleh, Alok Kapali over the years who were deemed the brightest prospects in the country.
By the end 2014, he had obliterated any doubt from my mind about his abilities and technical soundness.
Mominul followed up that 181 with three more fifties and three more hundreds. His Test average sat at a staggering 63.05.
At the risk of sounding biased, after Don Bradman, this is the highest average by any batsman in the history of Test cricket. Mominul still has a long way to go and he may not be able to maintain that average but he deserves full credit for what he has achieved in such a short period of time.
However in One Day Internationals, his average is hugely unflattering. An average of 23.60, with just three fifties, doesn’t do justice to a player who has been seemingly calm, composed, calculative and classy in Test cricket.
So what has been the underlying reason for his lack of success?
Mominul has been given chances at number three for quite a while, from May 2013 to June 2014, with the exception of one innings. He has hit three 50’s during this time, but didn’t quite pin down the spot. He was dropped during the ODI series against India in 2014 after slow innings, but later that year, even against Zimbabwe, he only made 31 and 15 at the same position.
Mominul has batted lower down the order a few times but unfortunately big hitting doesn’t come naturally to him. He prefers building a long innings at number three. However, given the demand of modern cricket, he needs to learn to adjust to the situation and format. He’s shown aggression and a real ability to reach the boundary in Test matches; even if he’s not quite so brilliant at going over them.
So what does this mean for Mominul’s future in the side? Is he not fully equipped for the demand and rigours of one day games yet? His List A average of 25.59 doesn’t indicate much hope.
However, in the recently finished Bangladesh Cricket League, he led his team from the front to become the inaugural champions of the League’s One-Day competition. Mominul, made 78 off 77 balls with ten fours in the final. The innings catalysed a shift of momentum that saw his team chase down the stiff revised target after the game was stopped by rain.
This performance should have given Mominul a lot of hope in the upcoming ODI series against Pakistan. However, his innings came to a disappointing end in the warm up against the Pakistanis. Understandably, he wasn’t considered for the first ODI given the stellar showing from Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim at the World Cup. Soumya Sarkar, even though not fully established, has showed a lot of promise in recent times.
The first ODI against the Pakistanis saw the Bangladeshi batsmen amassing 329 runs which was backed up by the bowlers, leading to a 79 run win. The team management saw no reason changing the top order after such a blistering performance and Bangladesh finished the second match with another clinical performance and took a 2-0 series lead. That win meant Bangladesh won their first ever series against Pakistan in their cricketing history.
As those two matches showed, given the form the top order are in, Mominul’s presence is not needed in the ODI side at the moment. As much as I hate to say this, Mominul has no place in the side unless somebody in the top order gets injured or goes through a serious loss of form. It is such a shame since a guy, whose Test average is second only to ‘The Don’, can’t secure a spot in the ODI side.
What Mominul needs to do now is focus on scoring runs not only for the Test side, but also improving his stats in First Class and List A cricket.
His chances in the ODI side will eventually come since somebody will eventually experience a loss of form, given the cruel nature of the game.
But before that, he will need to make sure that he improves his domestic record and scores a lot of runs. That way, when the selectors do decide to make a change, he’ll be next in line.