Mominul delivers on his pre-match promise

Mominul Haque drives one AFP

A public vow in a press conference before the game is a very English football manager or an NFL player thing. It is a slippery slope that only a few have gotten away with. Mominul Haque, the relatively new Bangladesh Test captain who was described as soft and shy by his board president Nazmul Hassan, is perhaps the last person from whom you'd expect to hear that kind of pronouncement. Usually, he plays it safe in press conferences, but on the eve of Bangladesh's only Test against Zimbabwe, he spoke candidly.

"To be honest, we feel left behind if you consider the fact that we haven't scored a hundred in such a long time," Mominul said the day before the one-off Test against Zimbabwe. "We are working hard to overcome this bad patch; every team and player goes through one. It will happen soon. I am giving you word, in fact: one of us will get a hundred, double-hundred or even a triple-hundred. One of us will definitely play a big innings in this Test."

It was a moment of rare emotion in the pre-match press conference, the under-fire captain gave a reply to a question that was about the lack of hundreds for Bangladesh in Tests in the last 12 months. Of course if he hadn't followed through with the promise, ridicule would have followed him. But Mominul's premonition also stemmed from frustration at Bangladesh's prolonged batting downturn.

In fact, when Mominul reached his ninth century on the third day in Mirpur, it was Bangladesh's first Test hundred since February last year, when Mahmudullah and Soumya Sarkar made tons in a losing cause in Hamilton. The lack of big runs has coincided with Bangladesh's dramatic downturn in the longer format, losing six Tests in a row leading up to this game in Dhaka. Bangladesh crossed 250 only once during this period.

Liton Das' 218 runs at 27.25 was Bangladesh's best during this period, with a highest score of 35, which says everything about their struggle. Among those who played all five Tests, Mahmudullah and Mominul averaged 21.00 and 19.50 respectively, while the rest of the batsmen didn't even get close to those figures.

Their struggle against Afghanistan last September had a lot to do with a batting failure against legspin. In the three Tests they played in India and Pakistan, Bangladesh's batsmen were undone by quality fast bowling. There were several good starts, but none that materialised into a substantial score amid good spells from both ends.

For Mominul, what stood out more than the lull in form in 2019 was the lack of runs overseas. Mominul averages 58.77 in 23 home Tests, having struck all of his nine hundreds in Dhaka and Chattogram. That figure is a mere 22.30 in 17 overseas Tests, having struck six half-centuries.

In fact his 9-0 home and away record for centuries is unique in Test cricket. Rohit Sharma is second, with all six of his centuries having come at home. While that record might be cause for some concern, it is not one for panic. Batsmen have their strengths and preferences, and it is also true that Bangladesh don't really play as many overseas Tests as most others. Mominul makes the best of what he is presented with, though there is the factor that since the most technically sound batsman is at No.3 for most teams, the No.3 should be able to deal with all conditions fairly well.

Mominul ticks most boxes, but with Bangladesh scheduled to play several overseas Tests this year, runs from the captain would make a big difference to a line-up in constant flux. Then too, the absence of Shakib Al Hasan has been a big hole, and it means that big runs are expected off the No 4 batsman too.

Whether he will deliver or not remains to be seen, but what can be said with more certainty is that Mominul will most likely not be making quite so many public pronouncements henceforth, despite his 100% success rate with them so far.