Cricket

Published on February 12th, 2017 | by Sandipan Banerjee

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Burden of keeping and leadership not benefiting batsman Mushfiqur Rahim

It was one of the most prolific knocks by a Bangladesh batsman under pressure and Mushfiqur Rahim has earned plenty of accolades for his remarkable fifth Test ton. As a captain and wicketkeeper, he had a bad Test match so far, but his hundred was like a breathe of fresh air for him and Bangladesh. And thus, the issue about his wicketkeeping abilities and leadership qualities remain a moot question. And, whether he should promote himself up the order to flourish himself more, is also a subject buzzing around the Bangladesh cricket fraternity. 

The Cricket Guy has more on this…

Is Mushfiqur Rahim the best Test batsman Bangladesh have produced?

Following his gutsy 127 against the number one ranked Test team, equipped with world’s best spin attack and quality pacers, this has been the major point of discussion in the Hyderabad press box on Sunday.

With his technique, class and temperament – Mushfiqur certainly has his noses ahead of his competitors like Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan or Habibul Bashar. Test hundreds in West Indies, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, India and at home show his flexibilities as a batsman in different conditions. But Sunday’s knock was special.

The Aussies, who are next to play a Test series in India, can pick up a trick or two from the way Mushfiqur handled Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja throughout his knock in this historic Test match. The innings has not only kept India at bay and taken the Test to the fifth day, but also provided Bangladesh with an outside chance of saving the game.

Even Bangladesh’s batting coach, Thilan Samaraweera, rates Mushfiqur as one of the best in the business in contemporary cricket, “I think he is the best batter at the moment.”

However, if Mushfiqur is the best batsman in the team then what is he doing batting at number six? Whether it is Virat Kohli, Steven Smith, Joe Root or Kane Williamson —all top batsmen in the world bat up the order at the Test level. But for Rahim, it is all about battling it out with the lower order.

Well, the argument which goes in the favour of this approach is — he is a keeper and after standing behind the stumps for a long period, he can’t just bat higher.

“That [keeping] is a big concern because how hot in the subcontinent and how difficult it is to bat in number three or four,” Samaraweera raised a valid point when the author wanted to know his views on Mushfiqur batting up the order. But he did not have the answer for the other part of the question – why can’t he sacrifice keeping to take more responsibility with the bat.

“We will see in future,” that was the only answer he had.

Mushfiqur is an introvert kind of a person who takes pride of what he does — whether it is batting, keeping or leading the side. But his problem is at times he tends to become a bit insecure and defensive minded. For the team he always gives his 100 percent, but because of his insecurity the team tends to suffer sometime.

In 2014, till November, Bangladesh did not win a single ODI and Mushfiqur was in charge of the team. Finally, despite his unwillingness to vacate the post, the selectors replaced him with Mashrafe Mortaza as the limited-over’s skipper and rest is history.

It was not that he was looking to hold on to the power, he just wanted to take more responsibility and do well for the team. But for his own and team’s sake the change in leadership was the need of that time and that decision of giving the charged to Mortaza changed the face of Bangladesh cricket.

Similarly, Mushfiqur at this point of time is firm to continue with his dual responsibilities of keeping and leading the Test team, but he has to understand Bangladesh need the batting prowess of Mushfiqur, more than his keeping and leadership.

If Mushfiqur plays purely as a batsman in the Test side, he can bat at number four and this will provide the much needed stability to the Bangladesh top order. Without the headache of captaincy and keeping he can concentrate more on his batting. It will help him to develop as a batsman.

Someone like Nurul Hasan or Liton Das can come into the side as a specialist wicketkeeper. Both are good enough batsmen as well. But in that case someone in the lower order might face the axe, but for the team’s cause, time has come for Bangladesh to take this hard call.

“He [Mushfiqur] is Bangladesh’s best batsman. But he is very disappointed [On his keeping]. But if we play Mushfiqur only as a batsman and add another keeper in the playing eleven, whom will we drop? In that case, unfortunately, Sabbir Rahman or Riad [Mahmudullah] might face the axe. This is our only option. We will take a final call on this issue very soon,” even the Bangladesh Cricket Board president Nazmul Hasan thinks on the similar lines. But will he take the hard call anytime soon?

Talking about captaincy issue, BCB president made it clear, there is no proper replacement.

“I have spoken with him [Mushfiqur] about the captaincy issue. But during the match, we are not going to talk about it. We are thinking about this. But the problem is if we remove him, who will take charge. No one wants to take responsibility of the Test team,” Hasan said.

Bangladesh’s next Test assignment will be in Sri Lanka, starting from March 7. It will be interesting to notice who comes out for toss and stands behind the stumps for Bangladesh in the Galle Test. Lack of option might save Mushfiqur’s captaincy career, but he will have to let go the keeping gloves, that is for sure.

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mm

is our guest writer. He is a cricket journalist by profession and admirer of this great sport by nature.



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