Mahmudullah is not past his prime: Hathurusingha

Former Bangladesh captain MahmudullahProthom Alo

Bangladesh head coach Chandika Hathrusingha said that Mahmudullah is still very much a part of the Tiger’s One-Day International (ODI) plans and rubbished the notion that the veteran all-rounder is past his prime.

Mahmudullah has been axed from the Bangladesh squad for the first two matches of the Ireland series, which will begin in Sylhet on Saturday.

The selectors claimed that Mahmudullah had been rested from the series as they wanted to groom backup for him in case he becomes unavailable for the forthcoming 50-over World Cup due to an injury.

However, many analysts and fans viewed this as a weak excuse and felt that Mahmudullah’s time with the ODI team could very well be coming to an end.

But on Friday, in the pre-match press conference ahead of the Ireland series, Hathurusingha echoed what the selectors had said and claimed that Mahmudullah is still a part of the plans for the next ODI World Cup which will take place in India from October this year.

Bangladesh head coach Chandika Hathursingha during a press-conference ahead of the ODI series against Ireland on 17 March 2023
Shamsul Hoque

“You have never given me a chance to explain. That’s actually your opinion,” Hathurusingha retorted when asked if Mahmudullah is past his prime.

"I don’t think he is past his prime. What we are trying to do is expand our pool of players before the World Cup. In case something happens close to the World Cup, then there are enough players that we have seen and we can trust who would do a job in the World Cup,” he added.

After the three-match ODI series, Bangladesh will go to Ireland for three ODIs, host Afghanistan for three ODIs and play three ODIs against New Zealand at home before beginning their World Cup campaign.

They will also play Twenty20s and Tests in those series, but in terms of 50-over matches, Bangladesh just have 12 matches to go before the World Cup in India.

Hathurusingha pointed at this dearth of matches before the mega tournament and said that this is the reason why he is ‘rushing’ to test new players.

Mahmudullah wasn't picked for the three-match ODI series against Ireland
Prothom Alo

“So, this is something I’m rushed to do that. I think we have only 15 (12) odd games till the World Cup. So, therefore we are trying to give opportunities to players that we think can do the role. So Riyad (Mahmudullah) is still in the mix, that’s the way we look at it.”

But the question remains, if Mahmudullah’s replacement in the team exceeds the all-rounder in performance, will the management still stick with Mahmudullah or dump him in favour of the replacement.

“This is a very tough question to answer. Riyad has done enough, he has a lot of experience, we know what he can bring. We want some other players to also get up to the mark, play international cricket. It’s not skill wise. It’s about seeing whether these guys have the character to do it at that level. It doesn’t mean that if one guy performs well, Mahmudullah is finished. He is still in our plans,” the Sri Lankan answered.

Towhid Hridoy is likely to get his ODI cap against Ireland in the in 1st ODI
Prothom Alo

Towhid Hridoy, Yasir Ali could potentially take Mahmudullah’s place in the side. Zakir Hasan was another candidate but he is out of the series after suffering an injury on his thumb and has been replaced by opener Rony Talukdar.

When asked what the team will expect from Mahmudullah’s replacement, Hathurusingha had a fairly straightforward response, “When we pick guys who are performing at the domestic tournaments, we only want to see whether they have the character to do the same at the international level. It’s important for us to know who are the players with the right character to win games from tight situations.”