Mominul Haque and Mahmudullah © Getty Images
Mominul Haque and Mahmudullah © Getty Images

We still remember those images flashing where a dejected Sabbir Rahman who almost took his side home against England in the first Test with his 64* being consoled by Joe Root. Then we immediately get a smile on the face, thinking about a flying Shakib Al Hasan who handed Bangladesh their first win against England. Well, it was not just Bangladesh but every cricket aficionado across the globe celebrating along with them. When they took on New Zealand, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim’s 359-run stand almost upset the apple cart. Yet, the series belonged to the Kiwis. Against Sri Lanka, the task got heavier. It was the 100th Test for Bangladesh.

There were felicitations, special events organised for the players by the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), Unfazed by all hullabaloo Bangladesh’ focus was only cricket. The pendulum swung and after hours of sessions, Shakib, Rahim, Mosaddek Hossain joined hands to create history, despite early destruction from veteran Rangana Herath. Yes, Test cricket can get tad bit boring especially in a country like India where the schedule of Test cricket is never ending. But for Bangladesh, it is special. It took them 100 Tests to prove they have reached the next level. Bangladesh do not get to play enough Tests but have proved in the recent times that they have the mettle to face any big nation and even register wins. Australia were whitewashed 0-3 in Sri Lanka. A few months later, Bangladesh won a Test in Sri Lanka. This speaks volumes of where they have travelled.

After a gap of 10 years, Bangladesh’ old rivals are set to meet Australia on August 27. During 2005-06 series, Bangladesh had just 1 Test victory to their name in their so far cricketing chronicles while Australia were facing the hosts on the back of 3-0 whitewash against South Africa. Where Australia won the first Test by three wickets the second was easy as Jason Gillespie’s double-century settled the scores. The story is different today. Bangladesh might not be at the same level as that of Australia but definitely have raised the bar in comparison to the previous years.

Australia have not announced their team for the first Test yet. However, Bangladesh would now be having their watershed moment after the first Test squad announcement. Where the selection committee has maintained the same squad as the Colombo Test, the axing of massive stars like Mahmudullah and Mominul Haque is surely going to hurt the Bangladesh camp.

Absence of Mahmudullah and Mominul is absence of talent and experience in the side.

Mahmudullah dropped, why?

Mahmudullah’s breathtaking innings against New Zealand of 102* took Bangladesh to the semi-final of Champions Trophy for the first time. Sadly, his ODI form could not earn him a spot in the Test squad.

Mahmudullah during the Colombo Test was asked to head back home following his poor form with scores of 8 and 0 at Galle.

How much can we draw comparisons by just one Test?

Mahmudullah has been excellent in the sub-continent. Starting his Test career from 2009 with tally of 1,809 runs, his maximum runs (1,263) have been earned in Asian conditions at a decent 32.38.

As for home, he remains ahead here as well. With tally of 1,155 at 36.09 off 18 matches and 33 innings, the selection committee surely have relevant reasons ready to axe him.

Another advantage with Mahmudullah in the camp is the flexibility of batting positions. Mahmudullah has batted at No. 4, 5, 8 and 9 at home. He has scored the maximum runs batting at No. 8 followed by No. 4.

Not to forget his 96* against India in 2010 at Dhaka helped Bangladesh to put up a competitive first innings score, batting at the same No. 8 position. It also remains his highest score in home conditions.

Bangladesh are also missing out on a handy spinner, especially in conditions tailor-made for him. Mahmudullah has earned almost half of his wickets in Asia (17) off 39 wickets at 3.55 where as at home it comes down to 13 off 3.54 from 25 innings.

The drop of another M

Another notable exclusion is the drop of Mominul. The southpaw was an instant hit during the Bangladesh A tour scoring 150 against West Indies. He made his way to Bangladesh side when Shakib was injured for the first two ODIs against West Indies in 2012. He earned the call on back of two First-Class centuries.

Mominul has played 22 Tests with the last one being against Sri Lanka at Galle. Mominul was also not considered for the Test in Colombo after scoring 7 and 5 respectively.

Off 1,688 Test runs Mominul remains a hit in the Asian conditions with 1,427 runs at 50.96. He has scored four 100s and eight 50s in these conditions.

At home as well, his willow does not stop. With 1,220 runs at 58.09 that includes six 50s, Mominul announced his entry in Tests with score of 181 on 2013 against New Zealand at Chittagong, his hunting ground. His average touches almost 47 in Tests.

Earlier, the runs flowed through his willow at will given his sound technique and temperament. He was considered the best batsman in Tests after his marathon run of fifties which began in 2013. His failure in Hyderabad against India in 2015 meant he lost the chance to equal AB de Villiers’s world record for fifties in consecutive matches.

Mominul knew it was difficult to maintain the same graph, but knowing his experience at home, the batsman had some hope, “You cannot maintain the same kind of graph as a batsman. The biggest challenge lies in overcoming the lows. I am confident that I can overcome it.” At the Chittagong practice match as well, Mominul scored 73.

However, it is Nasir and Soumya Sarkar over Mominul!

Nasir and Soumya Sarkar in numbers

Since the New Zealand series in 2013, Nasir has seen dip in his form. Considering Nasir played his last Test against South Africa in 2015, his return comes as a surprise.

Off 17 matches, Nasir holds tally of 971 runs since his Test debut in 2011. He might have decent record at home with tally of 625 at 39.06, Mominul is way ahead in the league.

Although Nasir was out of form from 2013-15, he bounced back in the domestic season last year and had a decent run in the National Cricket League averaging 109.33 in four innings. However, in Bangladesh Cricket League it was 30.87 off mere eight innings.

Sarkar seems to be an exciting prospect who has played just 7 Tests since his debut in 2015.

He has tally of 481 runs at 37. The youngster is someone to watch out for on the Asian conditions who holds major runs here (359) off 6 matches.

However, at home Sarkar faces a flak holding just 107 runs at 21.47 with 37 being the highest score off 3 matches. The levels drop further with just 4 runs assimilated at Dhaka, the venue for the first Test.

Yet, Chief Selector Minhajul Abedin blamed Mominul’s form in the last two Tests for his exclusion and clearly ignored the home conditions to ESPNcricinfo, “Mominul was dropped because of his form. Soumya is ahead of him. Soumya has four fifties in the last eight innings during this period, averaging 45.75. Mominul is not unlucky because based on current form, others are ahead of him. There’s less pressure playing in away Test than a home game, so we didn’t take that into account.”

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Exclusion of Rubel Hossain does not surprise. He was injured with the door being collided on his face after their semi-final loss against India in Champions Trophy. With Taskin Ahmed, Mustafizur Rahman and return of Shafiul Islam building the pace attack, Bangladesh have plenty to play around. However, on turning tracks it all comes down to Shakib, teen sensation Mehedi Hasan, Taijul Islam and Mosaddek Hossain.

Yet, it leaves much to ponder on the exclusion of the experienced Mominul and Mahmudullah and the selections of Nasir and Soumya.

In a bid to sticking to previous successes, Bangladesh might have just hit the wrong notes already.