Bangladesh is a blessed country with so many natural talents. But she can count herself the luckiest as because she has been blessed with a few of the special gifts of God. Mustafizur Rahman is one of them.
Two unknown footballers made their way into Brazil’s World Cup squad of 1958. One was a 17-year old id and the other was a boy who played football for joy and on the pitch did not know against whom he was playing – he played for the joy of people. Back then, the Brazilian think tank regarded them as special gifts and it was only a matter of time, the world would come to know about them. Indeed, Brazil’s dawn was just breaking.
Brazil’s coach Vincente Feola did not risk of unleashing them in the first two encounters against Austria and England, but against the former Soviet Union, Feola needed to come up with something different. He decided to include two of the special gifts of Brazil – Pele and Garrincha – with the motive to unsettle the scientific football of Soviet Union.
Garrincha scripted the greatest three minutes in the history of World Cup football against the Soviets while the 17-year old kid Pele would turn the world upside down with his dazzling skills and goal scoring abilities. In the next twelve years, world would witness the era of Brazil football and two of the special gifts would be hugely responsible for scripting one of the golden eras of Brazil football.
The sporting fraternity is full of such special gifts. The God at times shower His blessing upon a nation in the form of special characters like Pele, Garrincha, Maradona, Mohammad Ali or Shakib Al Hasan, who not only strike gold on the pitch, but also carries the hope and aspiration of whole nation. The luckiest nations, at times, are blessed with few more special gifts.
In that sense, Bangladesh can count themselves as one of the luckiest ones. As because, along with Shakib, God has gifted Bangladesh Mustafizur Rahman aka Fizz.
In 2012, a shy, skinny Fizz came to Dhaka from Satkhira to trail at a fast-bowling camp at the Shere Bangla National Stadium. His abilities as a left-arm fast bowler did not go unnoticed by the local coaches who decided to give him a go in the age group teams. Two years later, Fizz would fetch nine wickets at an average of 18.44 in the Under-19 World Cup in the Middle East. The same year he made his debut in Bangladesh Cricket League for Khulna Division.
“He is the best Under-19 bowler in the country. It is not necessary that he will play matches, but he is a prospect, and offers us the left-arm seam variety,” said by the former selector of Bangladesh Farooque Ahmed.
But Fizz’s international debut was still delayed until he caught the attention of Chandika Hathurusingha. Chandika recognized, what a great asset Fizz was and immediately decided to unleash this gem in 2015 against Pakistan, India and South Africa. Under the supreme guidance of Chandika and Heath Streak, Fizz bamboozled India and South Africa to create waves even in the cold shores of England. The world went crazy about him. He was an overnight sensation in Bangladesh and across the border.
Fizz would become the X-factor in Chandika’s four-man pace attack – a ploy which unleashed a new era in Bangladesh cricket, who once upon a time relied heavily on left-arm spinners. Back then, the attack comprising of Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Rubel Hossain, Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman triggered a humungous euphoria among the fans and critics. Especially, Fizz was the centre of attraction in every game. Mind you, when a talent, even overshadows the aura of Shakib, you have to bear in mind about the weight and charisma of that talent. Man, Fizz is such a special gift!
Fizz is a freak! Man, it’s never easy to deceive the batsmen with such a pace! Neither his pace is as deceptive as Wasim Akram nor would he put chills down the spine Bill Voce, but most of the times he would clock around 120-135 kmph. Very rarely he would touch that 140 kmph mark. He is not genuinely quick and does not have the ability to swing or dish out the rip-snorting bouncers. But he is well-equipped to bag wickets with his medium-fast kinds of stuff as because, he has his own cataclysmic and mystical variation.
His most lethal weapon is the offcutter, which come off at a reduced pace with little change in action. In naked eyes, those would look like lollipops, but when it swerve after landing on the back of a length to outfox the very best, you tend to sit back and wish to have another look at it. You are left asking yourself, “What is so special in those cutters”? Yes, those deliveries look so benign, but still, they either disturb the timber or trap the batsmen lbw.
That’s why I termed him as a special gift. Where the likes of Wasim, Voce, or Alan Davidson’s quickish left-arm made them a nemesis for the batsmen worldwide, here in Bangladesh, the calm and quiet boy from Sathkhira, Mustafizur Rahman’s not-so-quick left-arm continues to enrich his tally of wickets each day, each season.
Like any other pacer, Fizz would use the new ball – make it either come back in or move away off the seam, but as soon as the ball gets old, the magic of Fizz would unleash. He does not need to rely on reverse-swing, but his cutters help him a lot, as the surface aid him to achieve enough grip. Of course, it requires enough skill to utilize the surface as well.
There would be no change in arm-speed, a factor which makes it tough for the batsmen to pick him up, and at the point of delivery the wrist would break as the ball comes down with a scrambled seam resembling like a spinner – not an easy one to handle. Of course, the length of Fizz is always around that good and back of a length, area and when the ball spins from that length from an angle wide of the crease, it’s a treat for the cricket lovers.
Muttiah Muralitharan said, “It is always about the change of pace. Why spinners do well is because the pace on the ball is different. In Mustafizur’s case he can bowl the slower ball without any significant change in his action, making it very difficult for the batsman to pick up the variation. This is a real skill.”
Injuries halted his progress in 2016, but under Courtney Walsh, the rehabilitation work went very well. Over the years, Fizz has learned the art of moving the old ball. It was evident during the Test series against Australia and Sri Lanka. Alongside, the offcutter, Fizz can bring the ball back in more and fire straight into the blockhole to end the story of tail-enders. He is bowling closer to the stumps at present and has mastered the art of bowling around the wicket and utilize the angle like Wasim Akram once did.
Bangladesh should be thankful for having someone like Fizz on their side. The most important thing which each and every Bangladeshi should realise, let Fizz play his own way and not try to hold him back from expressing himself in the middle. A special gift like Fizz are independent by nature and they tend to lose their shine under the guidance of pragmatic minds.
As Eric Clapton said, “In playing, I suppose, my greatest gift was to express the way I felt or the willingness to express myself”.
The world enjoyed a lot of Bill Voce, Alan Davidson and Wasim Akram’s destructive, but artistic poetry. I think the time has come to enjoy the non-destructive, but the artistic poetry of Fizz in the upcoming days. You don’t get an opportunity to relish the joy of witnessing a left-arm pacer every time. Fizz is here to provide us with the joy after Wasim. It’s time to enjoy the special gift, from Bangladesh!