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Captains' report card: In Kraigg Brathwaite's proactive leadership is a lesson for Mominul Haque

Trusting just one formula might have been the reason Bangladesh lost the Test series to West Indies

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Mominul Haque has time to grow as a captain, but he must start thinking beyond the spin-is-everything formula  •  AFP via Getty Images

Mominul Haque has time to grow as a captain, but he must start thinking beyond the spin-is-everything formula  •  AFP via Getty Images

West Indies' series win against Bangladesh was built on outstanding decision making, with captain Kraigg Brathwaite leading the way. The visiting side outplayed Bangladesh during critical passages of play, so much so that West Indies looked like they were getting more out of the pitches - supposedly tailor-made for the home side - than Bangladesh.
Both captains' journeys, expectedly, went in opposite directions.
Mominul Haque became Bangladesh's most prolific century-maker during the first Test, but his captaincy hasn't been too remarkable. After being handed the reins at a difficult moment in Bangladesh cricket, Haque's side was beaten comprehensively in India and Pakistan in 2019-20, and only found solace in a one-off Test win over Zimbabwe later in the season.
The pandemic didn't help. Haque, and his team-mates, sat around waiting as Tests against Pakistan, Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand were postponed through 2020. Haque himself underwent a surgery in his thumb, following an injury during a domestic T20 tournament in December. He started the series with Shakib Al Hasan in his squad, for the first time, but Shakib missed one-and-a-half of the two Tests because of an injury. Still, it was close to a full-strength Bangladesh squad.
This was in stark contrast to the resources available to Brathwaite, who became captain after Jason Holder was one of several big names to pull out of this tour. Brathwaite has only ever been Test captain when Holder has been unavailable - and West Indies had lost all five Tests he had led in prior to this series. Brathwaite had also led West Indies when they were crushed in the 2018 series in Bangladesh, which might have shaped their drive and planning for this contest.
Suiting the action to the word
Brathwaite and Haque are similar in some ways, both quiet individuals who get on with the job.
Haque stepped down from his usual No. 3 position to give Najmul Hossain Shanto time to settle in. Brathwaite discarded his usually stoic approach by being more proactive against Bangladesh's spinners with the new ball. But it was ultimately what was different between the two that mattered - Brathwaite's proactive leadership, for one.
Brathwaite brought himself on to bowl with the pressure on his team on the fourth day of the Dhaka Test. Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar were going at a great pace, having scored 59 runs in the first 12 overs. Brathwaite removed Sarkar with his first ball and Iqbal in his third over. Sure, they were both soft dismissals - Sarkar edged an innocuous delivery to slip and Iqbal drove straight to short cover - but it's not unlikely that Brathwaite knew that both batsmen were prone to committing such mistakes. Those strikes could well have turned the game.
Haque, who bowls useful left-arm spin, didn't bowl a single ball all series. Neither did he try Shanto - not a regular bowler, sure, but it's the sort of throw of the dice that often works: Shakib was out injured at the time, and Kyle Mayers and Nkrumah Bonner were making history.
In terms of field placements, too, Brathwaite stole a march over Haque. The West Indian used a lot of in-out settings; he has shown the keenness to drop outfielders on both sides of the pitch when a fast bowler is on, but more often than not, he kept the conventional slips in place. For the spinners, it is hard to remember when Brathwaite didn't have a bunch of close-in fielders.
Two of the most critical moments in the Test series both went West Indies' way.
When Bangladesh had lost their way after a good start in the final innings in the second Test in Dhaka, Brathwaite realised there was no point in saving runs even if he was defending only 230; wickets were his main focus. Haque was one of five batsmen to be caught by close-in fielders. Even when Mehidy Hasan went on the offensive towards the end, at least two close-in fielders were left in, just in case.
In contrast, while defending 285 on the final day in the first Test in Chattogram, Haque was guilty of pulling out his close-in fielders for Mayers and Bonner. They did get set within the first session but both being rookies on a fifth-day pitch, there was no reason not to believe they would have felt the pressure.
The need to think out of the box
Haque is still new at the job, and has room to grow as a captain, but trusting just one formula - spin, nothing else - might not be the best way to go. But, then again, spin to win on home pitches is a strategy Haque has inherited. And in Bangladesh, it's not always that the captain - or coach - is allowed to be in charge. It's an old story, and not a happy one. Still, Haque has the backing of the senior players in his dressing room. During the third day's play, Iqbal spoke passionately about letting Haque grow into his leadership role.
"I personally feel he is the right man for the job," Iqbal had said. "Test captaincy is not easy. His thinking, planning and focus and future planning, and how he sees the Test team, I don't think there's a better person to lead the team. I strongly believe Mominul is the right person.
"You must all remember that he is very young. He will make mistakes and learn from it, like all captains. With time, he will get better. Mominul is up there among those who gives a lot of focus to Test cricket."
That's a strong endorsement, and there's reason to believe that given the freedom to be himself, Haque could become a good captain. The good thing for him might be that there aren't any major contenders to topple him.
Brathwaite, meanwhile, will walk into the next West Indies team, whether he is captain or not, as someone who has achieved something big. His willingness to learn from the 2018 tour, and use it to be better, worked well for his team.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84