Bangladesh need clarity after Mominul muddle

Mominul Haque waits for his turn in the nets AFP

Mominul Haque became the latest high-profile selection turnaround in Bangladesh after he was swiftly brought back into the squad for the first Test against Australia, a day after he was dropped. The decision, reportedly taken by the Bangladesh Cricket Board president Nazmul Hassan, is also the latest episode of tumult in the convoluted selection policy introduced last year, which also factors in the approval of the board president.

The initial decision to drop him was contentious since Mominul had suffered only his first dip in batting form since his Test debut in 2013. Other Bangladesh batsmen have been given longer stints in the senior team, with recent examples being Mahmudullah and Soumya Sarkar. Mominul remains the highest run-getter at home in the last four years, and the best player of spin by far.

During the press conference to announce the team on Saturday, chief selector Minhajul Abedin and coach Chandika Hathurusingha offered different reasons to support Mominul's exclusion but many of those fell flat. When Minhajul and Hathurusingha were called to a meeting by Hassan, in the presence of selector Habibul Bashar and other BCB directors, they had to agree to bring Mominul back.

He was brought in to replace Mosaddek Hossain, who has an eye infection, but the discussion went much deeper. Hassan said that he usually talks plans and strategies with the players, head coach and selectors before every series but this time he missed the meeting because the team was training in Chittagong earlier this month.

"So after seeing the squad, I asked the selection committee and the coach to see me because I wanted to know what they were planning to do," Hassan said. "Today I heard the coach's plan with the selectors present. I also spoke to the senior players yesterday."

He said that during the meeting there was no real reason given to explain Mominul's axing, and that the decision was "unfortunate" and "sad".

"Both sides said that there was no real reason to drop Mominul. He became a victim of circumstance, particularly for this game.

"It is unfortunate. Mominul is one of our best batsmen, there is no doubt about it. When we dropped him from ODIs and T20s, we said that he will concentrate on Test cricket. He has been our Test specialist, so I am bound to feel sad when he is not in the Test team. There is a big difference between being dropped for one game or being set aside permanently. He can be dropped with conditions or opposition in mind but Mominul is not the sort of player to be dropped. He has a huge career in front of him in Test cricket."

But this is not the first time the selection panel in Bangladesh has made a 180-degree turn for a player. Previously, Minhajul and Habibul Bashar were reinstated after being overlooked in 1999 and 2000 respectively. In 2006, Mohammad Ashraful was brought back into the squad after being dropped.

In recent years, there has been some drama surrounding team selection, none more so than when Mahmudullah, touring Sri Lanka, was asked by the team management to return home ahead of Bangladesh's 100th Test. Hours later, Hassan insisted that Mahmudullah would remain in Sri Lanka and be picked in the ODI team. Hassan also said that he asked the selectors to pick Mehidy Hasan for the ODIs on that tour.

The instances of Mahmudullah and Mehidy are among the more high-profile turnarounds since the new selection committee took over in June last year. The BCB rebooted the committee by adding Hathurusingha, team manager Khaled Mahmud and cricket operations chairman Akram Khan. Faruque Ahmed resigned as chief selector, with Minhajul being named as his replacement. The committee picks a squad, and it still needs Hassan's approval.

Hassan has asked the selection committee to reduce his role in decision-making, but on several occasions in the last 14 months, he has made recommendations for certain players. For instance, he asked the selectors to continue with Mosharraf Hossain after he bowled well in the third ODI against Afghanistan.

During last year's Bangladesh Premier League, he mentioned Mehedi Maruf and Shahriar Nafees as potential candidates for the New Zealand tour. The selectors picked Maruf in the training squad and the player traveled to New Zealand, had nets for a day and then returned home.

The latest episode is not the last instance when the selectors are undermined, though it will leave a bad taste for those who reformed the selection system.

Could it, for the first time, trigger a rethink on the policy?