Mahmudullah Riyad’s poor form is a worry for Bangladesh……
The second day of the second Test between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe at Mirpur belongs to Mushfiqur Rahim. The pocket-sized dynamo registered his name in the record books after scripting a double hundred. He carried on his cautious approach on Day 2, even though, against a tiring Zimbabwean attack, Mushfiq was needed to accelerate as because, Bangladesh were not in trouble like yesterday and thus, batting slowly seemed a pretty negative approach.
Bangladesh’s target was to instill fatigue among the visitors and post a big total in the first innings to gain a psychological advantage. But if Bangladesh are thinking of winning this Test, it was important to save time to force a result – if Zimbabwe, who have nothing to lose, start to grind, those slow passages of play might haunt Bangladesh badly. And for which, acceleration was needed and a timely declaration might have been even better.
As the fielding coach of Zimbabwe team, Shepherd Makunura said, “I think the game is still evenly poised, although Bangladesh batted quite well. It’s all going to depend on how well we bat tomorrow, especially the first session. If we can negotiate the first session, we can make life a little easier for ourselves. It’s going to take a lot of batting for us”.
Anyhow, in the subcontinent, for the sake of personal landmarks, the outcome of a Test had been ignored on many occasions. So, waiting for a Mushfiq double hundred or a Mehidy Hasan Miraz half-century was not surprising. Mushfiq finally bagged a double ton and with that, he became the first wicket-keeper in the history of Test cricket to essay two double hundreds.
Again, Mushfiq is the sixth batsman in the history to break the record of a country’s highest individual score twice. He would be accompanied by the likes of Sir Don Bradman, George Headley, Vinoo Mankand, Virender Sehwag and Brian Lara in that elite list of batsmen. Moreover, Mushfiq has faced most of the deliveries (421 balls) and stayed at the crease for the longest period (589 minutes) by a Bangladesh batsman.
While Mushfiq was cruising towards his milestone, Mehidy Hasan went on to script a half-century and at one point it seemed, Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah Riyad would wait for Mehidy’s hundred as well. But thankfully, he declared and gave his bowlers 18 overs to test the Zimbabwean batsmen. The Tigers fetched one wicket and on a track, which gave evidence of an uneven bounce, the batsmen of visiting team negotiated quite well.
The stay of Mushfiq at the crease worked as a tonic for Mominul Haque and Mehidy Hasan, but it should have acted as a catalyst for Mahmudullah as well. With Shakib Al Hasan unavailable as the Test captain and reluctant to lead and play five-day matches, Mahmudullah might be the obvious choice as Test captain in future. And thus, he needs to lead from the front with the bat and as a tactician on the field as well.
On a day, where Bangladesh scored runs in plenty, one expected Mahmudullah to cash in and erase his lean patch like Mominul. Like Mominul, his batting performance in five-day matches have been very poor.
In 2018, including this Test, Mahmudullah has played six Test matches where he averages 21.13 and scored just 169 runs. His highest score is 83 not out, which was scripted on a graveyard-for-the-bowlers-deck in Chottogram against Sri Lanka at the start of this year. 0, 4, 0, 16 and 36 are his scores in the last five innings and since that 83 not out, the next five innings read: 28, 17, 6, 0 and 15. Not so pretty numbers for a man, who is dubbed as the next Test captain and is also one of the vital cogs of Bangladesh batting line-up.
Since that Test match against Sri Lanka at Chottogram at the start of this year, Mahmudullah had been bowled and trapped leg before once, while got caught behind and by others in the rest of the nine innings!
Mahmudullah’s problems against the deliveries outside offstump and turning deliveries are evident these days. He is not using his feet enough when the ball is pitched up by the pace bowlers and has forgotten to leave the ones which lands on the offstump line and moves away, whereas, tries to dominate the spinners with a haphazard approach – either comes out of the crease to smash or attempts to sweep without even getting into an ideal position, which has resulted in an ugly lean patch. Even today, he was undone by a delivery, which was going away from his body from an offstump line – he poked at it and was caught behind – the dismissal of a man, who has forgotten to keep his bat inside the line.
There are chinks in his technique and those can be corrected if Mahmudullah wishes to work on them. He is known as a hardworking cricketer. Sadly, his batting displays in five-day matches don’t hint that he is working enough on his insufficiencies. But, Mahmudullah needs to pull his socks up and rediscover his mojo. He needs to overcome his shortcomings.