Bangladesh need to nurture Test gains
Given the limited-overs overload over the next five months, the significance of Bangladesh's Test performances in the 2013-14 season could become a distant memory by the time they tour West Indies in July. It is, nevertheless, hard to overlook the performers of the four Tests between October and February, against New Zealand and Sri Lanka respectively.
Mominul Haque stood out as the most impressive performer in these Tests, but he was not alone. Shamsur Rahman made impressive starts in all three formats while Imrul Kayes' century in his comeback Test would give him confidence. Although Sohag Gazi bowled too quickly against Sri Lanka in the Tests, he was on top of things against New Zealand. Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan have also had their moments over the last five months.
Mominul's unbeaten hundred against Sri Lanka in the second Test in Chittagong, his third in the last four Tests, emphasised the importance of a solid No. 4 in the Bangladesh line-up. He has already become the highest scorer at the position for Bangladesh, with 755 runs in 13 innings, easily beating Mohammad Ashraful's 691 runs in 44 innings.
Among batsmen of the last five teams in the ICC Test rankings in the last 12 months (with a qualification of five Tests), Mominul (755) is fourth on the list of leading run-getters, behind Kumar Sangakkara (1106), Ross Taylor (910) and Kane Williamson (820). The New Zealand batsmen, however, have played 11 and 10 Tests in this period, respectively, compared to Mominul's seven.
Mominul is apathetic towards numbers and that was definitely his approach on the fifth day of the Chittagong Test when Bangladesh had to bat all day to secure a draw.
"The pressure was of the team's position in the game, absolutely," Mominul said. "The hundred was never really in my sights. The openers Tamim bhai and Shamsur bhai gave us a good start, but from the first ball I faced, it was in the business of survival. I had to kill time, so reaching fifty and hundred were not the prime concern.
"I am not too keen on statistics. I don't keep an eye on my score on most occasions. But a batsman's satisfaction does come with a milestone, especially on such a day. The team obviously comes first, so I was focused on making safety a certainty. They bowled really well at times, so it was very important that my concentration didn't break."
His immediate concern is limited-overs batting, as he averages in the twenties in both ODIs and Twenty20s. "I would not say that I am doing well in the toughest format, but I want to play all types of cricket. I want to improve my batting in different formats," he said.
Bangladesh will play two Twenty20s and three ODIs against Sri Lanka, after which they play a minimum of four ODIs in the Asia Cup from February 25. Then comes the World Twenty20, where they play three preliminary round matches against the Associate Nations and, if they qualify, another four games.
With the possible addition of ODIs against India in June, Mominul will be expected to be in the thick of things, taking responsibility of the middle-order like he has done in Test cricket.
At the same time, the new performers of the limited-overs glut will stake a claim in the Test side that will be selected subsequently. Since there is a tendency to prefer the latest performer, there should also be time to think of the pitfalls that such a thought process brings.
The most recent example was the selection of Al-Amin Hossain ahead of Robiul Islam as the lone seamer in the Chittagong Test. The explanation from Mushfiqur Rahim, that Al-Amin was picked because he was the best bowler in the previous Test, was baffling. Robiul had taken 15 wickets and bowled 110 overs in the two Harare Tests in April, but he is suddenly out of favour.
The same thing happened to Mominul during the ODI series in Zimbabwe. He batted rather slowly at No. 3 for two matches, which prompted his exclusion for the third game. His highest score in the next three ODIs, against New Zealand in October, was 32, but it remains to be seen if his Test form could help buy him time in the shorter formats.
It is a ludicrous question to ask of a batsman who has batted so well recently, but five months from now, the example of Robiul could be repeated. A broader, long-term view, a very un-BCB like characteristic, is welcome to be part of accepted wisdom in the Bangladesh team management and selection committee.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here