When most Bangladesh players got away from the game after the BPL in December, Mominul Haque sought technical corrections from his mentor Mohammad Salahuddin. The small change has made a big difference in Mominul’s approach against spinners, as he can now move forward and back more swiftly without being too predictable to the bowlers.
The change in technique has so far contributed to three first-class centuries in the last three weeks, including the 176 against Sri Lanka. Salahuddin, who was Bangladesh’s assistant coach under Jamie Siddons, now coaches two top domestic teams but is better known as mentor to many Bangladesh players including Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and Mominul. His connection with Shakib, Mominul, Abdur Razzak and Nasir Hossain goes back to his days as BKSP’s chief cricket coach.
Salahuddin said that Mominul’s change in technique was about the initial step he took against spinners which limited his options against the fuller deliveries. Seven of his last 10 dismissals before the ongoing Chittagong Test were to offspinners like R Ashwin, Dilruwan Perera, Nathan Lyon and left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj. On many occasions, he was either rooted to the back foot with no room to maneuver or confused whether to go front or back.
The dismissal to Rangana Herath on the second morning was more Kusal Mendis’ credit as he took a reflex catch at short leg. Otherwise, Mominul batted at an impressive strike rate of 93.23 against Herath, Dilruwan and Lakshan Sandakan, scoring off more than 50% of their 149 deliveries.
“Mominul was always fluent against spin but in recent times, I had seen something wrong with his initial foot movement,” Salahuddin told bdnews24.com. “He was taking a step while playing the shot. Spinners usually bowl a fuller length so that step was restricting his options. Spin bowlers understood this problem and trapped him. I worked on his initial movement, which he practiced.
“He was happy that it worked in the first BCL match. He kept working at it and got results. You saw him on the first day how he played in front, back, stepped out and used the entire crease. He used his feet to thwart the spinners who couldn’t guess what he was doing.”
Salahuddin said that Mominul’s problem against spin should have been eliminated long ago by the Bangladesh coaching staff, instead the problem was identified and used against him by the opposition. “I was surprised when someone said that he was weak against the short ball. I was shocked when I heard that he was weak against spin,” he said. “There aren’t many in Bangladesh who play spin better than Mominul.
“Mominul’s issue was technical. It isn’t that he never scored runs. A batsman can have a problem. They sometimes can’t catch it quickly since they are always playing matches. So it is the coach’s responsibility to identify and rectify the problem. It is easy to cast him aside but that’s not the solution.”
Salahuddin also felt that being kept away from ODIs also hurt Mominul’s batting rhythm. He has been picked only for Tests since the 2015 World Cup, giving him long breaks when the senior side is playing other formats.
“You will notice that Mominul hadn’t made a century after getting dropped from the ODI squad,” Salahuddin explained. “The reality, at least in Bangladesh, is that it is hard to keep form by only playing Tests. We play fewer Tests. It is hard to only work on your own, away from the team. I am sure that given the opportunity, he could play such innings in ODIs too.
“This is not an excuse though. It is not just working on your batting but such long breaks also has an effect on a cricketer’s mentality. It is tough to motivate oneself. Mominul has been able to remain strong, but anyone else would have been dropped by now. Bangladesh cricket has many such examples.”
Correcting Mominul was yet another example of how Salahuddin has been helpful to a Bangladesh player. From his days as Bangladesh’s assistant coach, he has always been critical to their success. The first time he was in the limelight was by helping Razzak return to international cricket after the ICC suspended him for an illegal bowling action. Even when Salahuddin worked in Malaysia, he would be sought out by many players like Shakib to help in technical matters.
In 2011, Shakib returned to Dhaka from the IPL for a few days to work on his batting with Salahuddin. There are numerous such incidents and while some at the BCB recognise to use him in an official capacity again, they turned their backs to him after approving his appointment as a batting consultant last August.