‘To be, or not to be, that is the question’
This question encapsulated Hamlet’s dilemma in Shakespeare’s timeless play ‘Hamlet’. In the play, the protagonist Hamlet asked this question to himself, wondering which is better, to continue living in suffering or embrace death.
Although not as dire, the think tank of the Bangladesh team is facing a somewhat similar dilemma of their own over the last few days.
‘To keep or not to keep Mahmudullah!’
The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) is set to announce the squad for the forthcoming ICC Twenty20 World Cup on Wednesday.
But the selectors, coaching panel, skipper and board president are reportedly split on whether or not to keep former Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah in the squad.
Mahmudullah, who is the most experienced T20I player in Bangladesh, is going through a lean patch for close to two years.
His strike rate in T20Is in the last two years has been a shade over 106, which is unacceptable for a batter who is playing in the team as a finisher.
His average during this period is 22.31, not anything to boast about. He has hardly bowled his handy par-time off-spin in the past two years, bowling only 22.2 overs in 34 T20Is.
Mahmudullah’s batting approach also does not go in hand with the uber-aggressive style Bangladesh is trying to adopt in the format, which they showed glimpses of in their second and final match in the recently concluded Asia Cup.
In that game, the Bangladesh batters played their strokes, ran between the wickets more aggressively and swung from the hips more than they had done in recent times.
Bangladesh posted 183-7 in that match but eventually lost in the last over owing to sloppy bowling.
In that game, Mahmudullah made 27 off 22 balls, which was a slight improvement from his earlier best T20I innings in 2022, a run-a-ball 27 in a losing cause against Zimbabwe.
All-rounder Mosaddek Hossain was tried out as a finisher in the Asia Cup and he delivered for Bangladesh with an unbeaten 48 off 31 balls against Afghanistan and a whirlwind 24 not out off just nine balls.
The team would greatly benefit if another batter plays like Mosaddek lower down the order, which Mahmudullah hasn’t been able to do for some time.
The pressure on the 36-year-old’s spot in the team is also mounting as there are a couple of candidates that can replace him down the order.
Yasir Ali and Nurul Hasan were not in the squad for the Asia Cup owing to injuries. But both of them are now fit and are expected to return to the World Cup squad.
The management rates both Yasir and Nurul highly and they could very well be a better option at number six, a position currently occupied by Mahmudullah.
The selectors have plenty of reasons to drop Mahmudullah from the team, but there are a few reasons that are keeping them from pulling the trigger.
The first point in consideration is Mahmudullah’s vast experience in the format. After Mushfiqur Rahim announced his retirement from T20Is, Mahmudullah and skipper Shakib Al Hasan are the only active Bangladeshi cricketers who have played more than 100 T20Is.
Going to a global tournament without a player with such a wealth of experience would be a bold decision.
Moreover, this year’s tournament will be held in Australia, the same place where Mahmudullah hit his maiden and career highlight century against England in the 2015 ICC World Cup.
Bangladesh has never played a T20I in Australia. In the other limited-overs format, Mahmudullah is Bangladesh’s highest run-scorer behind Mushfiq, with 176 runs in five innings.
But the biggest reason behind this dilemma is the reported insistence of skipper Shakib to keep Mahmudullah in the squad.
Both Mushfiq and Mahmudullah were in Shakib’s plans for this year’s T20 World Cup. Mushfiq retired out of the blue, but Mahmudullah is still active in the format.
Shakib was handed the reins of the T20 team earlier this year with the goal to change the way Bangladesh play in the format.
Shakib has sketched out his own plans for the team for the T20 World Cup and if Mahmudullah is a crucial part of his plans, it would be very difficult for the coaches and selectors to persuade him otherwise.
Returning to the fictional world of Shakespeare, the play Hamlet ends with almost every main character, including Hamlet, dying. Whatever the board ends up deciding, let’s hope the result won’t be as tragic.