Mahmudullah thrives in spite of role
Mahmudullah Riyad's Test career might be seeing a reversal of fortunes after a determined century against Zimbabwe was instrumental to Bangladesh being able to reverse their own fate in the ongoing one-off Test at Harare.
Last year, following a string of low-key Test scores, the management decided it was time for Mahmudullah to take a break from Tests. Coming back in to the side after 16 months, the right-hander --only included in the side due to Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim missing out through injury concerns -- grabbed the opportunity with both hands, stringing together a career-best score of 150.
However, the fact that Mahmudullah always finds himself in such positions where he is required to stage a rescue act also shows the precariousness of the role he has been asked to play for the Test side.
Easily one of the most technically solid batsman in the side, Mahmudullah's form in Tests belies his calibre. If damage control is a role, that is the one Mahmudullah had been bestowed with because his batting order has required him to play a certain way over the course of his Test career.
Usually when he comes into bat, he finds the team under immense pressure. On the first day of the Harare Test, that was the position he found himself in with Bangladesh crumbling to 132 for six.
With Liton Das at the crease and only Mehedi Miraz to come as the other recognised batsman, Mahmudullah's role had to be a rescue act. That he was able to shine under such circumstances following his return to the Test side is, however, an exception given that it is easier to wilt -- as Bangladesh have done in the past -- when such situations arise.
Mahmudullah watched the deliveries closely, taking time to get his eye in while the Zimbabwe seamers felt the wind at their backs after removing Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan and then Mominul Haque.
He had to lay the foundation for his own knock by first talking Liton through his innings. His determination to be there, the grit shown in a patiently confident knock, also allowed his partner to grind things out.
He took time to get acclimatised to the faster track, showing soft hands and getting on top of deliveries and showed the signs of a man looking to revive his Test career. With first Liton and then Taskin Ahmed as a partner, he took Bangladesh to a position of strength after a stuttering beginning.
However, a team featuring nine batsmen in the lineup is not a solution any Test side going for a win would find productive and Mahmudullah may not find the same support in other instances such as this.
Mahmudullah and Taskin would go on to string together a 191-run stand -- the second-highest ninth-wicket partnership in Tests, playing out more than 40 overs.
The gargantuan task of batting with a tail-ender during a long partnership has its own kind of pressure and Mahmudullah came up with the right answers this time.
However, the question remains whether the task of disaster management is what his role will keep on being while the management judges his performances without considering the difficulty of that role in a team like Bangladesh.