Faith on experience or bet on youth

Bangladesh Test captain Mominul Haque
Prothom Alo

Bangladesh Test captain Mominul Haque wants to step down as captain. He made his thoughts known to the president of Bangladesh Cricket Board Nazmul Hassan in a meeting on Tuesday.

Mominul told the newspersons after the meeting that the pressure of leading the team in red-ball cricket is taking a toll on his batting. The left-hander wants to relieve himself of leadership burden and only concentrate on batting.

The board is yet to officially take back the captaincy mantle from Mominul but it seems to be just a matter of formality. The BCB will have to announce Mominul’s replacement very soon as Bangladesh is set to play a two-match Test series against West Indies in the Caribbean islands from 16 June.

Rumours are that the board has already made up its mind about who will succeed Mominul. They want to give the captaincy to a certain all-rounder that has led the Tigers before in Tests in two separate terms.

But in Bangladesh cricket, equations change overnight and nothing is ever certain. So, Prothom Alo (English) takes looks at who are the prime candidates to be Bangladesh’s next Test captain, what makes them suitable for the job and what their drawbacks are.

Shakib Al Hasan

Anybody with the faintest idea about Bangladesh cricket would know that the all-rounder rumoured to become the next Test skipper is Shakib Al Hasan.

Shakib Al Hasan
File photo

Shakib was Bangladesh’s Test captain till 2019, till ICC slapped him with a one year suspension for keeping contacts with Indian bookmakers. After Shakib’s suspension, Mominul was made captain overnight.

Shakib led Bangladesh in Tests for the first time in 2009, when skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza suffered an injury while bowling and as his deputy, a 22-year-old Shakib stepped up as the team’s leader.

Though Bangladesh won that match, it is not counted in Shakib’s official captaincy record as Mashrafe started the game as captain. Shakib’s tenure officially started in the next Test, which Bangladesh also won to seal the series 2-0.

Shakib captained the team in 10 more Tests in his first term but the team lost all of them. Shakib got sacked following a defeat against Zimbabwe in 2011.

Shakib’s second run as captain also started in West Indies in 2018. This time, they suffered a 0-2 drubbing at the hands of the hosts. Bangladesh returned the favour with a 2-0 clean sweep when West Indies reciprocated the tour later in the year.

In Shakib’s last match as Test skipper, Bangladesh were humiliated by newcomers Afghanistan, losing by 224 runs in Dhaka.

With three wins in 14 Tests, Shakib’s record as Bangladesh captain is not something to marvel at. But the all-rounder could get a chance to improve his record very soon.

Shakib is nearing the twilight of his career but is still indispensable to the Test team. The board feels that Shakib’s experience and attacking mentality could help the Test team get to the next level.

But Shakib’s availability remains a big issue. In the last few years, Shakib has opted out of several Test series. Before every Test series of the Tigers, the talk of the town in Bangladesh is will Shakib play or not.

Bangladesh can’t afford to have a captain who is not fully committed to Test cricket. If Shakib guarantees that he will feature in every Test when fit, the all-rounder is the likeliest to become the next Test skipper.

Tamim Iqbal

Tamim Iqbal is another experienced member of the Test team who could be considered for the role.

Tamim Iqbal
Prothom Alo

Tamim is Bangladesh’s current One-Day International skipper. There were doubters about how the opener will fare as captain when he was first announced as Mashrafe Bin Mortaza’s successor in March, 2020.

But under his leadership, Bangladesh has won ODI series against West Indies and Sri Lanka at home. Earlier in the year, they achieved their maiden ODI series win over South Africa in South Africa with Tamim at the helm.

In his long Test career, which began in 2008, Tamim has captained the team only once. It was against New Zealand at Christchurch in 2017. He was the stand-in skipper in the absence of captain Mushfiqur Rahim. The Tigers suffered a nine-wicket defeat in that game and Tamim made 5 and 8 in the two innings.

Tamim’s recent record as captain in the 50-over format and his availability in Tests makes him a strong candidate after Shakib for captaincy. But the pressure of leading the team in two formats could affect his batting, which has been on an up and down trajectory recently.

Tamim got dismissed for naught in both innings of the Dhaka Test against Sri Lanka. But in the previous Test, he had struck a brilliant 133 against the same opponents in Chattogram.

The pressure of leadership could affect his batting form, just like it affected Mominul’s.

Mehidy Hasan Miraz

From being at risk of getting lost in the shuffle, to becoming Bangladesh’s first choice spinner in Tests, Mehidy Hasan Miraz has come a long way in the last two years.

Mehidy Hasan Miraz
File photo

Mehidy began his Test career in 2016 with a bang, bamboozling England at home and paving the way for Bangladesh to register its maiden Test win over England. But the initial success as an off-spinner, hindered his growth as an all-rounder.

Mehidy was a star all-rounder in age-level cricket, with many even tipping him as the next Shakib Al Hasan for Bangladesh. But in the national team, he became more of an off-spinner who could lend some support to the batsmen as a tail-ender.

But after briefly losing his place to off-spinner Nayeem Hasan in 2018, Mehidy has gone back to his roots. He has scored important runs lower down the order for Bangladesh in his previous few Tests, forming crucial stands with Liton Das.

Mehidy has shown proof of his leadership quality from his days in age-level cricket. He was the captain of Bangladesh Under-19 team in the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2016, which was played in Bangladesh.

In that tournament, Bangladesh came third, their best finish in the tournament till then. Mehidy was named the player of the tournament for scoring 242 runs and taking 12 wickets in six games.

Mehidy has been out of the leadership picture since getting into the national side. But the innate captaincy ability is still there and is visible during impromptu team meetings on the field.

Mehidy is just 24 years of age and has already played 33 Tests for Bangladesh. He can potentially serve Bangladesh as captain for a long period if the board hands him the mantle now.

Ironically, Mehidy’s young age is both his biggest advantage and disadvantage to being the Test captain. The Bangladesh Test team has many experienced players, who are likely to continue in the format for at least another few years. Leading a team with several former captains like Bangladesh is a difficult task.

Mominul seemingly struggled to assert authority over the team’s senior players on the field. Mehidy is six years younger to Mominul, his challenge will be much greater.

But taking a bet on Mehidy now, could help him grow into the role. Giving the captaincy to someone young also ensures that the team won’t be without options for a skipper when the senior players decide to put up their boots.

But will the board take a bet on youth when there are a couple of experienced players in the ranks, who can lead the team, is a question that is on the minds of several Bangladesh cricket fans.