Axing and including Mominul was not cricket

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 25 Aug 2017, 22:23:34

Axing and including Mominul was not cricket

M Serajul Islam
The Australian cricket team has finally arrived to play a Two-Test series in Bangladesh. The visit was postponed earlier because the Australians felt the security situation in the country was questionable despite protests to the contrary by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB). The Australians have arrived with the country facing a different terror attack, from nature in the shape of devastating floods that are ravaging many parts of the country.

The upcoming Test series is expected to be interesting. The Bangladeshis are no longer the minnows that the Australians could dispense with as a Team with which they were playing as an obligation for giving Bangladesh Test status. That notwithstanding, the Australians came close to being defeated in one of their two Tests on their last only trip to Bangladesh in 2006. In the First Test, Captain Ricky Ponting's second innings not-out century had pulled his team from the jaws of defeat. The Australians came close to being humiliated on that trip at a time when Bangladesh had not made the big strides in the Test arena as it has leading to the coming series.

Also, the Australians' recent Test performances have been far less daunting to give Bangladesh confidence. The Australians have lost 3 of the last 4 Test series they have played, 3-0 to Sri Lanka; 2-1 to South Africa and 2-1 to India defeating only Pakistan 3-0. Nevertheless, Australia still has in the Team now touring Bangladesh some of the finest Test players in international cricket. Captain Steve Smith has almost Bradman-like stats. In 54 Tests, he has scored 5251 runs with 20 centuries and an average of 61.05. There are other batsmen in the Team that have formidable performances behind them like David Warner. There is a new crop of some outstanding batsmen. And although Mitchell Staarc is not in the Team, in Josh Hazelwood, Pat Cummins and James Pattison, the Australians have a very strong battery of fast bowlers that are few levels above the Bangladeshis speedsters. Nathan Lyon is a world class off spinner with no one in the Bangladesh experienced enough to be considered in his class.

Thus it was a bit awkward that some of the Bangladesh Test players led by the Captain Mushfiqur Rahman stated to the media that it was the best time to beat the Australians. This was a very immature comment coming no doubt from the recent performances of the Bangladesh captain as a batsman in the Tests where he has averaged close to the Australian Captain. That notwithstanding, if comparisons were to be made on statistics alone considering all the departments of the game, the Australians are at least a class above the Bangladesh Team. 

And to add to that, there is something going inside the closed doors of the BCB where the Coach and the management select the Team that is not cricket. The omission of Mominul Huq from the Test squad and the uproar in the media that followed revealed that something other than cricket could affect the performance of the Bangladesh Team. Mominul's omission was a mystery and it is not clear whether he was taken back into the Team because of the uproar in the media or whether Mossadeq's injury brought him back to the Team. That Mominul has no takers where the selection is made has been clear for a long time even when he was averaging in Tests well over the 50s, the signs of a great Test batsman. And while getting those runs in Tests, he was by no means a dour batsman. His batting has always been full of strokes and his striking rate, a major indicator for playing in the limited over games, significantly high.

Yet the guardians of Bangladesh cricket influenced by Coach Chandika Haturasigha, in particular, decided that Mominul could be only a Test batsman and should not be considered for the one-day matches or the 20-20 format. That conclusion of the so-called guardians of Bangladesh cricket was simply crap for Mominul Huq is one of the very few batsmen in the Bangladesh team who has the technique to play all the three formats successfully. In addition, Mominul is more than the average fielder and he is also more than a useful bowler. 

Then take the issue of dropping him in the second Test in Sri Lanka. Remember Ashraful, the so-called legend of Bangladesh cricket? He played 61 Tests till be disgraced himself out for illegal betting. At that time, he averaged 24 in Tests and would fail to score in innings after innings and yet the selectors would keep him in the Team for that once in a while innings that he played. If the selectors indulged with Ashraful for his failures after failures, why would they sack Mominul just because he failed only a couple of times? Leading to the present Australian series, notwithstanding his loss of form, Mominul has played 22 Tests, scored 1688 runs with an average of 46.88 and 4 centuries, the best batting average among all Bangladesh Test batsmen, past and present. All the leading batsmen in the Bangladesh Team, past and present, have had loss of form but no one has been dealt with in the manner Mominul has been.

Media has reported that Mominul Huq has been the victim of falling out with the Team's coach Chandika Haturasigha who first decided that he was not good for the limited over games. The Coach has been accused of a double standard in assessing players and playing favourites in selecting the players. He has retained Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes and earlier Mahmudullah Ryad for Tests despite repeated failures over longer periods than Mominul but did not give him the same indulgence as he gave them. These instances are glaring, underlining without any doubt that he has been anything but fair to Mominul Huq.

Perhaps the Bangladesh Team management is banking its confidence on what they did to England last year and not as much as individual players like Mominul. They perhaps are eyeing catching the Australians on a dangerously spinning track and hoping Miraj would do the trick again. However, they better be cautioned that unlike the English Team, the Australians have Lyons who could end up using a spinning track much better than Miraj. And now that Mominul is in the team, he should be given the number 3 spot and Kayes moved up to open the innings. 

It beats the cricket followers of the country why the Bangladesh team management replaced Tamim and Kayes as the opening pair after they shared an opening stand against Pakistan of 312 runs not too long ago. Souyma's style of aggressive batting would be totally unfit for opening against an Australian team's dangerous battery of fast bowlers. If the selectors continue to be deeply impressed with him although he has failed more frequently that Mominul, they should send him lower down the order that would help him and the team. The Team has left out Taijul Islam. That is not a good decision because Shakib is no longer the bowling danger he was not too long ago. 

To help the Bangladesh cricket fans look hopefully towards the Australian series and towards cricket in Bangladesh, the media must dig a little more on what goes on behind the closed doors of the team's selection committee. If the Mominul episode is any indicator, there is a lot that goes there that is not cricket. The fans would in particular like to know about the coach and the others who select the Bangladesh cricket team.

The writer is a former  Ambassador.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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