Mominul - dropped or sacrificed?
Mominul Haque's exclusion from the second ODI was a reflection of how the Bangladesh team management and selection committee have functioned this year. By all means, this was a sacrifice more than a drop as he had to pay the price for some of his senior teammates' lack of form. It is a reflection on poor selectoral choices for several months now without rational explanations, and a clear signal that the selectors are keeping a good distance from making tough though logical choices.
Speaking about Mominul and only adding to the conclusion about a lack of logical thinking among the management and selectors, Mushfiqur Rahim said the decision to drop the batsman was not due to his form but, much like everything else that happened during his side's 58 all out, he didn't get into a deeper explanation.
"We didn't drop Mominul because he is doing badly," Mushfiqur said. "He has struggled in ODIs unlike how he has started in his Test career. Hopefully he will come back. We thought of making a change in his place, as he is not a No 6, 7 or 8."
Mominul made just 5 in the last game and during his 27-minute stay, much like Anamul Haque and Tamim Iqbal, he didn't look too comfortable. He had also struggled for runs in the West Indies for Bangladesh A in the two four-day matches, but so did other batsmen such as Nasir Hossain, who played in the XI on Tuesday.
Mominul's recent ODI numbers, though, have been pretty good. He has scored three fifties in eight ODIs this year, and two of them came in his last four innings. He looked like one of very few batsmen in the team to be in some sort of form throughout the Sri Lanka series as well as the Asia Cup.
One can go out on a limb to say that in the light of Mominul being the most consistent of the Bangladeshi batsmen this year, it would have been perfectly understandable if he had retained his place for the second ODI. In contrast, going by form, it wouldn't have required too much of an explanation had the team management decided to omit Tamim or Nasir rather than Mominul. This despite the fact that Tamim is a senior player and Nasir is having his first bad patch in international cricket. Neither of their particular situations changes the fact that Mominul has been a settled and consistent No. 3 in Tests and ODIs.
It must be stated though that Momimul's replacement, the debutant Mithun Ali, played his role to an extent, top-scoring with 26 and looking in decent touch. He has been picked on the back of a fruitful domestic season but the key question is did Bangladesh actually need a new No 3 for this game? A similar decision was made last year in Zimbabwe, where Mominul was suddenly propped up to No 3 for the first two games, scored slowly in those games, and was dropped for the third ODI. The instance in Zimbabwe or what happened in Mirpur before the second ODI against India on Tuesday aren't isolated incidents.
From the start of 2014, Mahmudullah has been persisted with despite poor form, and when he was dropped, Mushfiqur was furious and even went public with his frustration with the selection committee. Shamsur Rahman and Arafat Sunny have found themselves in and out of the team while Farhad Reza was kept in the World T20 side for doing slightly better than Ziaur, who was in form at the time.
Ziaur was brought back into the T20 side as a late replacement although he had been out of training for a few weeks leading up to his call-up. Then there was the decision to drop Rubel Hossain although he had been the highest wicket-taker in the team. Sunny was the second highest wicket-taker.
The decision by the management and selectors to drop Mominul will send a confusing message all around - icon-clad certainty among the biggest names and insecurity among younger players for fear of being jettisoned on the basis of one failure.
Dropping Mominul is only one example. While the team management made one good decision in including Taskin Ahmed, the question remains as to whether it would not have been a sounder decision to have played him in the first ODI as well. Persisting with Ziaur Rahman led to a situation in which he bowled just one over each in the two matches even though the second ODI was played on a seaming pitch. With the bat, he was just as ineffectual, scoring just 2 in the first ODI and holing out for a duck after attempting an ill-advised slog in the second ODI.
Such selection patterns are not complex issues. The worry here seems to be more about maintaining the status quo rather than being realistic. Aggressive openers and finishers are given more leeway than batsmen offering solidity. If some within the management or selection panel find it hard to take the tough decisions, it makes the team environment that much more ridden by egg-shells.