<
>

Mahmudullah's chance to repay faith

Mahmudullah drives on the off side AFP

Mahmudullah's career was on edge for much of 2014, and could have been worse had he been caught by Kirk Edwards attempting a swipe across the line with Bangladesh nearing a disaster. It was the second innings of the first Test against West Indies in St Vincent on September 8. The catch was dropped, Mahmudullah survived to bat eight more overs and his eventual score of 66 restored his faith.

It was Mahmudullah's first Test fifty in 21 months, and it was followed by another half-century in the next Test. He held on to his place for the series against Zimbabwe, and he cashed in. He scored three fifties in the three-match Test series and, later, 179 runs in the five-match ODI series where he was dismissed only twice.

After scores of 1 and 12 in the first two ODIs against Zimbabwe, Mahmudullah picked up the pace in the third match of the series with a 26-ball 33 before he struck an unbeaten 82 in the fourth game. He was promoted to No 4 for that match and helped the team recover from 32 for 4 in the 13th over, adding big partnerships with Mushfiqur Rahim and Mashrafe Mortaza. He ended the series with his second fifty in the last game on December 1.

If there was one batsman who needed these runs in the Bangladesh team, it was Mahmudullah. He had been down in the dumps for more than a year, between March 2013 and August 2014, when he scored 358 runs in 17 ODI innings at an average of 22.37. Although his place was questioned consistently, he was dropped only for the Asia Cup and later recalled for the same tournament due to an injury in the squad.

A long time without runs meant that he had to score in West Indies and Zimbabwe. Mahmudullah is also among a group of players who had their form restored in time for the World Cup. He has had a good run since September and also led Prime Bank Cricket Club for their maiden title in the Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League. The allrounder was glad about the upturn in his form. He also linked the change in fortune to his improved fitness.

"I have tried my best. I bat in the lower order most of the time," Mahmudullah said. "I got a few chances but couldn't make use of them, but I always try to contribute for the team. I think I had a pretty bad year, the confidence level only rose in the Zimbabwe series. I will try to do something big for the team.

"I have been trying since the West Indies tour to increase my physical fitness and the extra work has been useful for me. It is getting well reflected in my performance."

Mahmudullah feels that the start of the World Cup will be important for Bangladesh, as they take on Afghanistan on January 18 in Canberra. The game is being seen as one of the most important ones for Bangladesh in the group stage.

"If we can start the tournament positively, we can reach our target. We don't have to think about the bigger teams. We can only think of our tasks, work on our strengths and weaknesses. If we can play to our potential, results will come our way," he said.

The start of the tournament will also be crucial for Mahmudullah. Bangladesh have picked Nasir Hossain and Sabbir Rahman for the lower middle-order. Although Mahmudullah has made a niche for himself in similar batting positions, there will be a competition for places among the three, and two of them will possibly get the nod based on their similarity as allrounders.

During his lean patch, Mahmudullah had the backing of people within the BCB and the team management and he will be looking to repay that faith in the days ahead.