Among the five finest players produced by Bangladesh along with Tamim Iqbal, Moshrafe Mortaza, Shaqib-al-Hasan and Habibul Bashar, Mushfiqur Rahim has been a pillar on which Bangladesh Cricket has evolved from amateurism to professionalism, filling everyone’s heart with more pride and optimism in recent years. A look back to the Country’s major Statesman who has been on duty for more than a decade.
13 years ago, Bangladesh were touring England for the first time. In the first test at Lords, a 17-year-old baby face boy was given a chance to make his debut. The dove-eyed bloke fought bravely against a quality attack to make a hard graft 19 in first innings. His audacious, watchful defences made people take notice.
Almost a decade has passed and Bangladesh have moved on to become a decent team. The boy has turned into a leader, a player who can be called as the first among equals, a man who the team needs and someone who complements the responsibility that is sought of him. Today, Mushfiqur Rahim, who has been on duty for last 13 years, is as unrelenting and unassuming as he was when he’d first arrived. Be it in every role- batsman ,skipper or wicket-keeper.
He is both a figure of poise and a reflection of great humility surrounding Bangladeshi Cricket. When as a 17-year-old, Mushfiqur walked on Lords in May 2005, it was considered to be a gamble from Bangladesh selectors who had the audacity of giving chances to teenagers who looked no more than struggling neophytes. It is interesting that just then a legend like the late Tony Greig confessed “ Boy hasn’t he stood beyond the expectations?’’ Rahim has bucked this trend and established himself as a role model for next generation Bangladeshi Cricketers. He has lead the team through example and has seen the changes in Bangladesh Cricket from so close (behind the stumps) like no one else. It could be said, he possesses the great vantage point of seeing transformations and jubilations in equal measure. When he arrived, his team were minnows. Today, they are a side that have automatically qualified into the Cricket World at a time where West Indies scraped through, but only just and Zimbabwe haven’t. It won’t be wrong to call him a silent saviour for Bangladesh on numerous occasions.
He’s not a flair batsman. Nor is he flamboyance personified. He might not have Tamim’s flamboyance and certainly doesn’t possess the magnetic charm of Shaqib or a tactician’s acumen you’ve seen in Moshrafe Mortaza, but Mushfiqur has the dogged determination to rule the roost.
When Rahim burst on the scene, he hardly resonated the feeling that many a teenager carried; one castrated away from the national set-up by their cricket board. Rahim went on to show glimpses of his talent, be it his 56* against India in 2007 World Cup 2007 which stung India like a wild scorpion, or his fighting 86 against New Zealand at Dunedin in 2009-10. There was an intent often complemented by a sense of caution in his brilliant 117 in Asia Cup 2014 against India, that shone in a losing cause.
Bangladesh have became a force in recent years not only because of Tamim’s, Shaqib’s, Sarkar’s, Shabbir’s but also due to Mushfiqur. A rather lop-sided view of describing Bangladesh has been how big they are in causing upsets. That was the by-line that essayed their game in 2007. Today, Bangladesh are more. The man who has bridged the gap from being upset causers to marksmen who can floor any side, is the constant figure of Mushfiqur. With his calm presence, the mild-mannered bloke brings a sense of security among the numbers of stroke players in Bangladesh line up. In 2015 World Cup against England when it was needed to play a long inning, he made a magnificent 89 that gave Bangladesh a victory they savour to this day. His 106 against Pakistan in the same tournament was as good a knock as any we’ve seen him play.
However, Mushfiqur has not only contributed with the bat and gloves but he has led his team to some of the remarkable achievements as their Test leader. He has lead them to Test wins against England, Australia at home and a historic test victory in Sri Lanka all in the space of 12 months. All of them were first test wins against respective countries, a major harbinger for all the good that Bangladesh is able to produce. You could call it top quality cricket. It made him the most successful Bangladeshi captain in Test cricket. However, a successful South Africa tour not only dented the progress he’d made in last couple of years but also cost Mushfiqur his captaincy.
Mushfiqur has never been the man affected by the conditions. Captaincy or without captaincy, in wins or defeats, at home or outside, he has always been at service of Bangladesh Cricket. In spite of all his achievements, it is also true that he has been criticised for his defensive attitude especially during his captaincy days. We’ve seen the likes of Virat and Ponting being exceptionally firebrand captains. The way they set the fields reflects their fiery, determined approach to batting. In 2017’s South African tour he cut a sorry figure blaming his own bowlers after they were hammered by Proteas batsmen.
At 29, Rahim still has a lot of years in him especially after he has been relieved from wicket-keeping at times and absolved from Test captaincy. It doesn’t matter whether Mushfiqur is not popular like Shakib or Tamim. He doesn’t run after fame. He’s the glue to the team that brings all together. It’s time that Bangladesh must praise the hero who have been by their side, dutifully for close to a decade.