The narrative around Mominul Haque has been pretty similar for years now, but 2022, in many ways, could be a litmus test for the Bangladesh skipper, writes Rohit Sankar.
Mominul Haque has played 47 Test matches since his debut for Bangladesh in 2013. Another player from a neighbouring nation who made his Test debut just days after him now has 79 caps to his name – Ajinkya Rahane.
It’s no secret that Bangladesh do not play as many Tests as some of the other Test nations. A domino effect of that is that there are fewer opportunities to change opinions and narratives. For Mominul, the Achilles heel is the massive difference between his home and away averages: 51.68 to 28.02.
It’s fairly easy to conclude from that stat that Mominul is a home-track bully. Dig a little deeper and you see that he has played eight Test matches away from home since 2019, four of which came against two of the best attacks in the world: India (his first tour) and New Zealand (his second tour). He averaged 11.12 in those four Tests.
The Test series against India in India was also his first series as captain, a series where he had to lead a side without Shakib Al Hasan (serving a ban) and Tamim Iqbal (opted out). Also, the second Test of that series was the first time Bangladesh were playing a day-night Test match.
In the four other away Tests since 2019, against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Mominul averages 62, and also recorded a century, his first in away Tests after 10 home centuries. It’ll take a bigger streak to change the perception around him, but Mominul has taken one step in the right direction.
The New Zealand tour, though, presents a steep challenge. He’ll be leading the team for the first time on a SENA tour. That it’s in New Zealand against a team on a high after their World Test Championship title win makes it all the more daunting. It’s also arguably Bangladesh’s first step to a new dawn, one where they accept Shakib Al Hasan may not be a luxury they can afford in this format anymore, with him dropping a hint about giving up Tests last week.
It’s time Bangladesh start getting used to not having Shakib (he’s played just four of Bangladesh’s last 14 Tests) around. What it affects big time is Mominul’s bold call to play five bowlers in Tests in his short time as skipper.
“If you want to win a Test match in Sri Lanka, you should always have five bowlers in the team,” Mominul said in Sri Lanka earlier this year. “We were playing a Test after two months, so if someone bowled poorly or got injured, we would have been in more trouble. To get ahead in Test cricket, you should play with five bowlers and six batsmen. Also, having six batsmen makes everyone take a bit more responsibility. We usually don’t play with six batsmen, but I think we should always play with five bowlers. That’s what big teams do.”
Since stating his intentions to do so publically, Mominul has strived to maintain that combination, but without Shakib, it’ll be a huge challenge. To do that, as he said, someone in the top six will have to take huge responsibility, and there’s no one better than Mominul himself to do it.
No Bangladesh batter, save Mominul, who has batted more than 10 times in Test cricket has an average of over 40. He is Bangladesh’s fourth-highest run-scorer in the format and holds the record for the most Test hundreds. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that Mominul is Bangladesh’s first elite quality Test batter.
But to make that evident enough, Mominul will have to continue bridging the gap between his home and away averages. He has eight successive Test matches away from home next year (according to ICC’s FTP, Bangladesh have tours of South Africa, Zimbabwe, and West Indies to follow after the New Zealand series this year) to do that.