Mohammad Isam in Mirpur
Mahmudullah has become Bangladesh clutch-hitter at crunch moments. Since early 2016, he’s also matured into a batsman who can craft tough runs, the 30-40 extra runs, that often make the difference in limited-overs cricket. This approach hasn’t really helped his poor Test form.
Until his two centuries in the last three Tests, he had averaged 24.75 in 26 innings and his place was the only one, among other senior batsman, that was under scrutiny. When he failed twice in Sylhet against Zimbabwe last month, it appeared as if the pressure had consumed him.
At the time, he wanted to bring “mental adjustments to his batting.” One way of doing that was “being positive.” In Mirpur against Zimbabwe and now in this series, he’s left the ball as well as he’s played them, an aspect that hasn’t been a hallmark of his game yet.
Here, Mahmudullah’s discipline lasted for 242 deliveries, his longest innings in international cricket till date. His previous longest innings was the 177-ball he needed to make his maiden Test century against New Zealand in 2010.
“I have been thinking from the second Test against Zimbabwe, I decided to take care of my mentality,” Mahmudullah said. “I wanted to remain positive, nothing more than that. I just wanted to score runs. Having said that, I was quite lucky [today] as well. A few decisions went my way and an edge didn’t carry to the slip. I have a lot of areas to improve, I have to keep working hard.”
Against Zimbabwe, his unbeaten 101 revived Bangladesh from 25 for 4, eventually paving way towards setting a huge target. Against West Indies, he had to fight through 19 overs along with Shakib on the opening evening. Then on the second day he survived two lbw reviews, a catch that almost carried to Shimron Hetmyer at slip and another that Shai Hope dropped at slip.
Then he saw Shakib and Liton Das tear into the West Indies attack. When he moved to the 90s, he saw No. 10 Taijul Islam batting more comfortably. This must have been humbling for someone used to dominating bowling attacks.
“The ball wasn’t coming on to the bat. When Shakib and I were batting on the first day, we had to work hard,” he said of his grind. “I think we hit only a couple of boundaries. I wanted to be positive, but take minimum risks. The new ball was easier to bat against, which gave us more scoring options. It starts reducing as the ball gets older. We were looking to utilize the bad balls.”
Ahead of the Test, Shakib spoke in details about his desire to see batsmen stick to their natural game. Shakib was indirectly asked about Mahmudullah and Soumya Sarkar, and without taking names, he made it clear that his stroke-players had to stick to what they do best.
Mahmudullah, though, sees it differently. He isn’t fretting over not hitting fours and sixes anymore. He doesn’t mind playing dot balls and grinding down bowlers. The big-hitter has added another chapter to his batting, and it can only mean good news for Bangladesh.