Mominul compromising on core competence to shed 'Test specialist' tag

Bangladesh Test specialist Mominul Haque needs to understand whether it is worth compromising on his skill and mind-set that he so carefully fine-tuned for the long format in order to make a comeback in the limited-overs versions of the game. A failure in two Test matches against West Indies certainly does not suggest that he does not have what it takes to shine in the pinnacle format of game, but what it clearly indicates is the change of his mindset.

Mominul is wearing the tag of being a ‘Test specialist’ quite uncomfortably given the significant gaps between games for Bangladesh in the longest format which he believes denies him an opportunity to cash in on good form. Bangladesh have only played 31 Tests in the last six years while they played 40 Test matches between 2000 and 2005 and 35 Tests between 2006 and 2012.

At the same time, according to the latest Future Tours Program, Bangladesh are set to play 43 more Test matches in the next cycle, a significant rise on the current number, but still not quite acceptable to many in the country.

“It is difficult to wear the tag of a Test specialist. We play Tests after long intervals so keeping that motivation intact remains the main challenge for me,” Mominul had told Cricbuzz before leaving for the tour of West Indies.

The series against Windies served as an example to the point. Mominul was returning to the national team after a gap of five months (he played Sri Lanka in the home Tests in February) and there was a marked difference to his approach in the Caribbean. The 26-year-old managed a grand total of 26 runs through four innings and appeared to be veering away from his natural game to some extent and looking to attack more in the middle, a ploy that has its roots to the Chittagong Test against Sri Lanka where he became the first Bangladesh batsman to score hundreds in each innings of a Test match.

He scored a match saving 105 runs in the second innings after putting 176 runs from 214 balls in the first innings at a strike-rate of 82. It was a knock that suggested he had all the shots of the book in his repertoire but what it did not reflect perhaps was that he was compromising with his temperament and ability to concentrate for long periods of time.

The jubilation and unMominul-like celebration after the ton in the first innings remained the talking point of the Test after his supposed drift with former head coach Chandika Hathurusingha. The Sri Lankan had to re-include Mominul in the Test squad for the Australia series against his wishes after an intervention from BCB chief Nazmul Hasan.

Hathurusingha had earlier excluded Mominul from the ODI set-up as he considered him not fit enough to be in the 50-over format. During the numerous hours that Mominul spent in the nets against the bowling machine, a bulk of it is often consumed for harnessing his skill in playing some attacking shots rather going back to the basics that had proved much dividend for him in Tests. Mominul could get away with an attacking approach at home, when the ball began moving and bouncing in the Caribbean, Mominul’s methods were exposed.

It is understood that not being part of all three formats has pushed Mominul into this precarious corner but there are widespread suggestions that he concentrate solely on Test cricket instead of trying to master all the tricks and that since he has the age on his side, he’ll eventually make it to the other formats.

Cricbuzz has learnt that new head coach Steve Rhodes has already spoken about the left-hander and sought expert opinions about Mominul’s ODI capabilities. However, he has not received any optimistic answer with one Bangladesh expressing concern about Mominul’s habit of getting tied down when the ball is pitched short with the aim of hitting his thigh pad.

National selector Habibul Bashar feels that long distraction might be playing an impact on Mominul’s game but tht at the same time, the left-hander is only paying for becoming over ambitious.

“Apart the last out when he was trapped lbw, in all the other cases it was playing away from the body. He is known to get close to the ball and playing it late but that was not the case somehow,” Habibul said while trying to analyze Mominul’s failures in West Indies. “I think accepting the reality is a big factor. It is fact that he is finding it difficult to adjust coming from long breaks in Test matches but at present context he is not the only one.

“Look at Murali Vijay for instance and we don’t see him trying anything different than what he did in the previous series when he comes to play a new series for India. I have observed in recent times whether he [Mominul] is playing first-class or domestic 50-over or Twenty20 tournament he is scoring runs at higher strike rate than what it used to be earlier. These little things can have an impact on Test matches as he is getting pre-tuned to certain way of handling things.

“We need to make sure that such a talent doesn’t get wasted just trying too many things and with age on his side if he can start picking runs at Test consistently today or tomorrow certainly he will be chosen for the other format as well. With the present FTP we do have lot of Test matches so it won’t be the same for him like before and to make sure he is always on the park we can plan differently about him by including him with A-team for their upcoming assignments,” he added.

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