If someone is tasked to make a list of the most memorable victories in Bangladesh cricket’s history, the Tigers remarkable win over New Zealand in the Christchurch Test is sure to make an appearance.
Hailed by many as the biggest ever upset in the history of Test cricket, a spirited team led by Mominul Haque shocked the World Test champions in their own backyard. Mominul played a crucial part in the win with a crucial innings of 88 in the first innings.
But not even six months after that milestone victory, Mominul was unceremoniously removed from the position. Well, technically Mominul himself stepped down from the post to concentrate more on his batting.
Mominul was guilty of making more than a few poor choices as captain, was seemingly finding it difficult to lead a team with a number of senior players and was also going through the roughest patch of his international career as a batsman.
Mominul’s exit from captaincy just months after conquering Christchurch might seem harsh but it is consistent with the cutthroat nature of international cricket, where captains are judged by what they have done in the last series.
But Mahmudullah, Bangladesh’s captain in the shortest format of the game, is apparently immuned from such scrutiny. Defeats continue to pile up, the team continues playing without any clear direction and the future looks grimmer after every match, but Mahmudullah’s position as captain remains unquestioned.
Since 2021, Bangladesh has played 32 T20Is. Mahmudullah has captained the team in 31 of those games, missing just one away T20I against New Zealand, which Bangladesh lost.
In the 31 games under Mahmudullah’s leadership, Bangladesh has won 12 games, lost 18 and one match ended in a no result.
The win-loss ratio doesn’t look too bad considering T20 not being the preferred format of the Tigers. But the statistics don’t show the complete picture.
Out of the 12 wins, two came against Zimbabwe while one victory came against Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Oman respectively. The remaining seven wins came against Australia and New Zealand at home.
Bangladesh beat Australia 4-1 and New Zealand 3-2 in consecutive home series last year. Although they were Bangladesh’s maiden T20I series wins against the countries, those wins were tainted.
Both series were played on pitches tailor-made for spin bowling, where batters struggled to even score run-a-ball. Moreover, both Australia and New Zealand had sent second-string teams for the series.
So, five of the 12 wins under Mahmudullah were against lesser teams and the remaining seven came against weakened teams in tailor-made spinning conditions to suit Bangladesh’s style of playing.
Playing on such slow, turning pitches months before a World Cup was a bad idea. And Bangladesh paid the price for it in the T20 World Cup in October, where they didn’t win any games in the Super-12 phase and even suffered a defeat against associate team Scotland in the first round.
After such a disastrous campaign, the board had more than enough reasons to do an overhaul, bring in fresh faces in the T20 setup and try to adopt a new approach to the format.
But that wasn’t the case. Mahmudullah remained the skipper, most players of that disastrous campaign are still in the team and the results, as expected, have remained poor.
The recently concluded T20I series against West Indies was just a continuation of that trend. After a no result in the first game, Bangladesh batters finished on 158-6 chasing 194 in the second T20I.
In the final game, held on Thursday, Bangladesh scored five more runs but the host batters easily chased the total down with 10 balls to spare.
After the series ended, Liton Das told the press that the team is not capable of scoring in the range of 190 and further said 160-70 is as far as they can go with the bat in a T20 game.
Liton is not alone. This mindset runs through the team, who are quick to give a list of excuses after each failure rather than trying to fix the problems.
Mahmudullah, as captain, has failed to instill the fearless approach needed to succeed in this format. Since 2021, Mahmudullah is scoring at a rate of 112.68, which is unacceptable for a batter who on most games comes out to bat in the final overs of a T20 innings.
In this period, he has scored only two fifties, a dogged 52 off 53 balls against Australia and a brisk 50 against Papua New Guinea.
Mahmudullah has failed to inspire the team, come up with a fresh approach to the format or even contribute heavily for the team.
England’s World Cup winning captain Eoin Morgan was in a similar position in his career. Realising he was no longer contributing enough as a captain, he decided to retire from the game in June.
At 36 years of age, Mahmudullah is in the twilight of his career. In Bangladesh, the number of cricketers who have been able to quit the game in their own terms is scarce. The way the T20 team is playing right now and his own form is floundering, another ignominious exit of a Bangladeshi cricketer is on the cards.