Mushfiqur Rahim needs to deliver as a batsman in white clothes……
Bangladesh tasted a huge defeat at the hands of West Indies at Antigua, after they were bundled out for just 43 in their first innings. Not one batsman countered the swing of the West Indies fast bowler successfully and as a result, Bangladesh registered their lowest ever Test score. This is not good news for a nation, who are keen on making a significant improvement in the longest format after improving leaps and bounds in the 50 and 20-over formats. One thought Bangladesh had reached a stage where them winning a Test would no longer be an upset, considering how well they had performed against England, Sri Lanka and Australia recently. But, they still have some way to go.
However, amidst all this chaos, the players will have to take a closer look at themselves and take responsibility. Other than the captain Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah and Tamim Iqbal, who have been around for a while now, there is one man who has been in the news recently – be it for resigning as captain or giving up his wicketkeeping duties – And that is Mushfiqur Rahim. Even before the Antigua Test got underway, everyone knew that the Bangladesh bowlers, especially the fast bowlers, were not going to cause any major threats. They have not been exposed to much cricket at the Test level and also, they have not played away from Bangladesh all that much. However, one expected their batsmen to show a little more fight.
However, the West Indies fast bowlers were too hot to handle and Bangladesh folded cheaply in both the innings. On tracks where there is swing and bounce, it is important to be patient, let the first hour or two pass and then shot making becomes a bit easier as the ball gets old. However, Bangladesh’s first innings lasted less than 19 overs and in the second innings, they had lost 7 wickets inside 20 overs. Bangladesh struggled against the new ball and by the time the shine of the ball went away, they had lost the majority of the batsmen already, making life difficult.
Under Rahim, Bangladesh tasted a fair bit of success in Tests, winning against England, Australia and Sri Lanka. He has not just relinquished his captaincy, but the selectors have also relieved him from his duties as a wicketkeeper in Test cricket. His focus now will solely be on his batting.
Mushfiqur was initially picked in Tests solely as a batsman, when he made his debut as a 17-year old, back in 2005 as Khaled Mashud’s understudy. Two years later, he replaced Mashud as the wicketkeeper-batsman in the ICC World Cup 2007 as he was considered to be a better batsman. Bangladesh believed in his abilities and did not give up on him some lukewarm performances with the bat. But, Mushfiqur has been with the Bangladesh national team for 13 years now and has often taken responsibility to take Bangladesh to a comfortable position.
He felt that his captaincy added more pressure on him and as a result, it was passed on to Shakib. He did not want to keep wickets and hence the task by the looks like it will be shared by Liton Das and Nurul Hasan. That just means, Mushfiqur now can focus only on his batting. This also means that his importance in the team has shot up. The fact that the selectors are willing to take away any additional responsibilities from him just so that he can focus on batting shows that they still rate him very highly and want him to deliver. Mushfiqur now has no reasons, if he fails. The team management has done everything for him to make him feel comfortable and now it’s time for him to deliver.
If Mushfiqur cannot deliver solely as a batsman, the selectors might be forced to look at some of the consistent performers in domestic cricket, like Anamul Haque, Tushar Imran and others. This could very well be a new chapter in Mushfiqur’s career – A phase that could define his and Bangladesh’s future in Test cricket.