The tiny figure of Mominul Haque looked out of place and out of his depth as he found himself surrounded by the press horde. He had just been told, moments after playing his match for the BCB XI against the touring West Indians, that he was selected to the Bangladesh squad as a replacement for champion all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan for the first two ODIs, and all he seemed to be trying to do was escape the spotlight.
It does not do to get too excited about a new prospect who is yet to play his first international game, but observers of the domestic game for quite some time identified him as a player for the future. His name was doing the rounds at the start of the year, but the fact that much care was being taken to blood him at the right time points to his potential.
More casual observers were pleasantly surprised by this diminutive left-hander's performance for the Barisal Burners in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) T20, especially during one match against Khulna Royal Bengals when he stole the game with a 28-ball 53.
The 21-year-old grew up in Cox's Bazaar and played cricket there, before going to BKSP for trials and subsequently being selected. He worked his way up through the under-19 level, then the Academy side before going to on to play for the Bangladesh A team, for whom he scored 150 on an A tour to West Indies earlier this year.
The lad from Cox's Bazar, only the third first-class cricketer to come out of Bangladesh's seaside town, has earned his call-up, scoring consistently over the last year and a half. Two of his three first-class hundreds have come in this year's National Cricket League (NCL) for Chittagong. But more than statistics, it the nature of his play that delights his backers.
In yesterday's match against the West Indies he scored 43 off 57, in itself not a huge achievement, but he seemed the only one at ease with the venom that the West Indians spewed. When the fast bowlers dropped short, he seemed to have ample time to rock back and play the pull. He would not often have faced bowlers of this speed, but the time available to him seemed to set him apart.
And equally encouraging perhaps is his demeanour off the field. He comes off as shy from a distance, but talking to him reveals something more beneath -- a strain of defiance perhaps, more likely a refusal to get flustered whatever the question, a trait he displays during batting. Refreshingly, he was not over-excited about his big break.
“I feel how I normally feel. I don't get too excited; if you get excited then that may open the door for conceit and pride,” deadpanned the little man. When pointed out that he should be excited as he has just achieved a cricketer's dream, his answer revealed that just making the national team was not going to be enough. “Dreams vary from person to person. I may have bigger dreams, maybe that's why I am not over-excited.”
When asked about the man he was replacing -- who he lists as one of his idols along with Mushfiqur Rahim and Tamim Iqbal from Bangladesh, and Australian skipper Michael Clarke from the international arena -- he was almost embarrassed as he said, “Shakib Bhai (Shakib Al Hasan) is Shakib Bhai, I am nowhere near him, I don't even think like that.”
Chief selector Akram Khan said that Mominul was picked because of his consistency and that the team management and selection panel thought that a batsman should take Shakib's place.
“Among the batsmen who are in form, we have seen that his (Mominul Haque) consistency is good. Mominul has played well recently as well as over the last one-and-a-half years. Although Shakib is an all-rounder, the team management thought that an extra batsman is needed,” said Akram. “Of course there is no one to fully replace Shakib. As I said he plays two parts for us, as a bowler and a batsman. We do have a lot of part-time bowlers to try and fill the void.”
It does not do to get too excited about a new prospect, and Mominul may well fail in his first test as an international cricketer. However, as he showed yesterday, he is not out of his depth facing the West Indians. At any rate, his addition will add a new level of interest when the series gets underway on Friday.