Bangladesh news January 18, 2015

Mominul versus the Short Ball

Mominul Haque has been practising his cuts and pulls ahead of the World Cup © AFP

The Bangladesh batsmen have been posed with a string of set scenarios in their batting sessions at the Shere Bangla National Stadium for the past week. After the usual net session, they bat against the bowling machine on a marble slab to test their skills against the short ball and off the back foot. Later, they play on the natural turf with license to hit aerial shots or place them in gaps against spinners.

Mominul Haque has gone through similar drills, sometimes twice a day. He also doesn't take day-offs, ensuring a seamless stretch of net sessions. Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusinghe recently told him that honing his back-foot play would help him in Australia, so presently he is working on that regularly. Like most of his teammates in the World Cup squad, Mominul is going to play his first major tournament and at the same time, his career is heading towards a juncture where he has to also secure a permanent place in the ODI team.

While his Test average hovers in the sixties, it stands at 25.66 in ODIs. All of his focus now, on and off the field, is on batting well in Australia and New Zealand.

"Australian wickets have bounce so I am trying to adjust to the bounce," Mominul said. "I am trying it against the bowling machine, outside in the nets, wherever possible. I am trying to work on batting off the back foot, playing the cut and pull shots. Batsmen from the subcontinent all have initial problems, but they get adjusted later on. We will also try to do that as soon as possible."

Mominul said he is taking inspiration from batsmen with similar build, particularly when it comes to handling short deliveries. He is also bracing to bat in any position deemed suitable by the team management.

"You can learn a lot from watching others bat," he said. "There have been plenty of short batsmen who played well on bouncy wickets. I will also try to do the same, play the short ball properly.

"I don't have a problem batting wherever the team wants me to bat. I really don't have a personal choice. I will try to play a big innings if I am asked to bat at No 3. If I bat lower down, I have to increase the run-rate. That's about it."

But when asked if the coach or anyone in the team management discussed his role in the World Cup, Mominul said: "We haven't talked about it."

And this is where Mominul's big challenge lies. He has been given opportunities at No. 3 for 13 months from May 2013 to June 2014, barring one innings. He struck three fifties during this time, but didn't quite nail down the position. He was dropped during the ODI series against India after just one slow innings, but even in two more innings in the same position, against Zimbabwe, he only made 31 and 15.

Mominul has batted lower down the order a few times but big hitting doesn't come naturally to him. In his own words, he would have to build a long innings from No. 3 but given the pressure of modern cricket, he is unlikely to be allowed such a luxury. For now, he just wants to make most of any opportunity he gets at the World Cup.

"I have no personal goals in the World Cup," he said. "I just want to make full use of an opportunity to play at a big stage for my country. I will definitely try to do something that I haven't done before, and improve on my performance."

Mominul also has to get over the confusion about his ability to handle the short ball. In his centuries against New Zealand and Sri Lanka, he handled the short ball quite well and attacked it. But in West Indies, there were murmurs that the team management wasn't convinced he could handle the bounce.

That feeling was suppressed the moment he took on West Indies with confidence in the Test series, but with cricket to be played down under, the concern has resurfaced, magnified daily as he works on his back foot play. For now, he said he will leave it to his audience to judge this particular ability.

"You will be the judge whether I play the pull shot properly or not. But I am not concerned about proving my ability to play the pull shot."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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