Fri. Nov 18th, 2022

Mominul Haque has a lot on his plate. ©AFP
Mominul Haque is a a captain under immense scrutiny. His leadership has come under the microscope since the home Test series loss to a depleted West Indies side. From playing just the one fast bowler to using Soumya Sarkar at the top, a lot of his decisions raised eyebrows. As Mominul prepares to rally his troops once more in Sri Lanka, he sat down for an exclusive interview with Cricbuzz, speaking candidly about the West Indies loss as well as the challenges ahead for the Bangladesh Test team.
Excerpts:
How has the preparation been for the upcoming Test series?
I’m preparing on my own. Some of the Test squad members are available while the rest (who are Test squad members) are in New Zealand. I think it an opportunity for me and the players to rectify our shortcomings in skill set during this time as we have time and we can work on our technical flaws. Look, without playing matches you cannot have full preparation. I think through the NCL (country’s traditional first-class tournament) we can have a good preparation and we can understand where we stand. I think it was difficult for me ahead of the series against West Indies because I did not play enough cricket as I was injured ahead of the series. Before the Sri Lanka series I will play two four-day matches and hopefully preparation will be good this time round.
Do you feel there should have been a practice match arranged before the West Indies series?
Yeah, definitely [we should have played longer version cricket] and some of us played matches but others failed to do so because of the Coronavirus pandemic. We played two tournaments [BCB Presidents Cup and Bangabandhu T20 in the bio bubble] before the West Indies and the series started with ODIs. After the ODIs there was some time before the Test series but there were talks whether we should rest or play [longer-version cricket] before the Test. We were playing Test cricket almost after one year and that is probably one of the reasons everyone struggled in Test.
Do you feel you missed the best of Nayeem Hasan in the Test series? He didn’t look fully fit considering he was coming from a finger injury…
I think it is difficult for me to say whether he was fit or not but I agree he was not in his usual rhythm. He had a big role in both the Tests for the kind of spinner he is. You see Miraz [Mehidy Hasan] played his part with the new ball and he batted outstandingly. Taijul [Islam] tried to check the runs and we were expecting Nayeem would pick the wickets as others would do well, like putting pressure by checking runs. But we did not get what we have expected from Nayeem and probably that is the reason we were on the back foot. Certainly we did not bat well but ultimately in three formats bowlers need to support and if that is not the case it becomes difficult.
What is the reason behind playing one pace bowler in a Test match? Is this decision driven by logic or fuelled by ego to stand by a call made a couple of years ago…
I don’t think ego and logic always work. Let’s start with the first Test they had played two pace bowlers but they hardly looked unplayable. Now let’s get into the stats and it will always say that pace bowlers are not successful in Chattogram, rather it is the spinners who are successful there. Probably we felt that as we are playing at home there will be something for the spinners as there will be some turn but we did not get that. You can say that it turned but it turned from the rough and you cannot consider that being a spin track, because it needs to turn when you are bowling straight at the stump. We probably did not get that spin wicket.
Is the lack of a Plan B a concern for your spinners?
Yes it gets difficult for our spinners when the ball is not turning. When the ball is not turning bowler must change his plan and go for checking runs like putting pressure by giving just one to one and a half runs per over and as we will pick wickets by putting pressure in such manner but unfortunately our spinners couldn’t do that. They bowled three to four good balls and bowled a bad delivery that released the pressure. We also failed to grab our chances (as a fielding unit). Our spinners must have a plan B because you are not going to get everything that you expect.
Do you feel you’ve improved in the way you use your bowlers from when you started as captain?
Yes that is true but in cricket everything won’t work in routine manner because there are times you’ll have planned earlier that you want to bowl someone for so many overs but after seeing his bowling you decided to alter your plan. Secondly when you are changing a bowler you need to have the confidence that he can deliver during such context of the game because it can boomerang if he is not used to handle such situation and he will release the pressure. But I guess with passing days I am better prepared when it comes to changing bowling.
Whenever Bangladesh loses a Test match or a series there is buzz in the air that ‘Tigers are still learning’ and it has now become quite a trend in our cricket. So how much you are learning?
I don’t want to learn anymore. We are learning for last 20 years and if now we have to learn for another 10 years than our cricket career will be over. The whole learning process is valueless if you can’t win matches. We need to learn quickly and deliver and that is most important thing to me because unless we can get our ranking higher, there is no point in all that learning and experience. We have to win matches more than learning the trade of Test cricket.
Despite Abu Jayed Rahi performing constantly as a pacer, he was still dropped for Mustafizur Rahman in the opening Test against West Indies…
I agree that Rahi is performing for us for last five to six series and he is very consistent with his lines and lengths and if you consider it that way he should have been in the Bangladesh team in opening Test. But at the same time you have to admit that he does not generate lot of pace and usually the wicket in Chattogram is very slow. So it [picking him] could have gone against him. I felt as the wicket was slow and considering Mustafizur [Rahman] bowls faster than him and was in a good rhythm we should pick him. It’s not that because he did well in ODIs but due to the fact that he could bring the ball into the right hander which is very effective in Test so we preferred him. If there was bounce in the wicket we would certainly gone for Rahi.
Mustafizur’s bowling changed a whole lot after he was warned for crossing the danger zone and he was never the same after those warnings. Do you think it was playing on the back of his mind?
I don’t think so but if a bowler is thinking in that manner it becomes difficult for him. You must have seen that whenever he was warned I had changed him and brought him from other end. He did not bowl too badly, he probably got confused how to react to such a situation.
You opted for Soumya [Sarkar] at the top with Tamim [Iqbal] when Shadman Islam was injured despite having regular opener Saif Hassan in your squad…
When Shakib [al Hasan] bhai was ruled out we had to get some kind of an all-rounder as we lost a batting and a bowling option. So if I have to bring someone in, I should consider him an all-rounder, instead of a batsman or a bowler, as he is replacing Shakib bhai. So we considered Soumya for his medium-pace bowling ability and his batting capabilities and as we had only one pacer in the side, we also considered Soumya as the second pacer in the team.
‘Not only Shakib bhai there can be others missing but I have to accept it’ ©Getty
What is your assessment of Bangladesh’s consistent batting problems?
Test cricket is a very different ball-game, as it is very different from the shorter versions, so it becomes utterly difficult for our batsmen to figure out the temperament to bat for a longer period, or to bat session by session, which is the basic of Test cricket. It also becomes difficult for the batsmen to play Test cricket after a long gap, or to adjust with the longer version immediately after playing the shorter format, so I think, it would have been less difficult for us if we had back-to-back Test matches. As you see, I have adjusted to the Test matches as I only represent my team in that particular format, but I can’t expect the others to do so, as they are playing multiple versions continuously, which is one of the reasons of our batsmen are failing in Test matches; and to mark another reason, I personally feel they lack the hunger of getting runs in Test cricket.
A lot of your batsmen play rash shots just after getting set at the wicket. Do you feel it is an effect of playing much more white-ball cricket?
A batsman has a routine and he should be able to absorb the situation of a particular match and he should be able to read whether he should stay at the wicket in a particular situation, or he should play shots and add as many runs as possible. If he is able to do so, then it becomes quite easy, otherwise, it ends in a disaster.
For Mushfiqur Rahim playing a reverse sweep is considered as a pressure-releasing shot but there are several instances when he fails playing that particular shot? Do you think he should be told about not using the shot frequently?
It completely depends on the mindset because everyone can make his own judgements whether playing reverse sweep is risky for him. I personally feel since Mushfiq bhai added the reverse sweep into his arsenal he is scoring a lot of runs from that shot across formats. This means it is his best scoring shot and if someone gets out playing his best scoring shot there is no point raising a finger on him. He is scoring heavily playing that shot so you cannot ask someone to stop it just because it looks risky,
Did you get enough support from the seniors?
I had a lot of support from the senior players, like Shakib Bhai, Tamim Bhai, etc. They had supported me from within and outside the field, and I’m satisfied with it.
You are definitely not getting a full-strength team against Sri Lanka, as Shakib has already excluded himself from the series? Are you planning for life without Shakib and in that case could more people be following in his path?
If I am the captain for next three to four years than there will be lot of changes and you have to accept it. You won’t get the same team all the time but you cannot stop because you need to move forward with the available resources. Not only Shakib bhai there can be others missing but I have to accept it. Because this [availability of cricketers] is not in my control there is no point losing my sleep over it.
What do you think would be the biggest challenge for you against Sri Lanka?
I think the whole Test series will be challenging because we played Tests after one year and we could not get a result, so everyone is bound to have some pressure. Some of my team mates will have a short break before joining the Test squad after playing ODIs and T20s against New Zealand. This will be a big challenge as they will have very little time to adapt and adjust to longer version cricket.
Do you feel it would be more worrying for you to not have a positive result against Sri Lanka, as there was atleast an excuse [long gap] in the loss to West Indies?
Losing is always embarrassing, whether you are playing after one year of after two months. You can say that we played Test after a year but you cannot put that as an excuse. If we can play attacking brand of cricket in Sri Lanka we will have chance to win against them.
Are you enjoying your captaincy?
When the team is losing as a captain you are expected to have some pressure and that is the law of the game. When you are given a responsibility and you are not being able to deliver you are bound to have pressure and it is applicable for every human being. But I have to bring out the positives from these defeats and work on it. I feel you should enjoy when you are in pressure because all the focus is on you and you have a chance grow as a leader. You have to lead from the front so you make sure that your batting is developed so I feel I am enjoying my captaincy at the moment.