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POST TIME: 13 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Mushfiq mantra to weather criticism
Instrumental behind the Bangladesh cricket team's upsurge in international arena since his debut at the historic Lord’s ground in 2005, Mushfiqur Rahim has established himself as the finest wicketkeeper-batsman the country has ever seen. With Asia Cup approaching, Mushfiq talks to The Independent Senior Sports Reporter Syed Mohammed Pithu about the ambition of the Asia Cup and the 2019 World Cup, the so-called mental block, importance to use emotions right way and his mantra to deal with the criticisms. Here is the first part of the story.
Syed Mohammed Pithu

Mushfiq mantra to weather criticism

There is an old saying that you cannot climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets! Talent can do nothing without perseverance. In Bangladesh cricket, there has never been any shortage of talent. But only a few could make the grades because of their willingness to persevere. Mushfiqur is one of those cricketers who has been able to apply himself when it matters the most and established himself as one of the finest batsmen of the country.  

He played some of the crucial knocks to take his team over the finishing line. This makes him one the mainstays of the Bangladesh batting line-up—his expertise in chasing is second to none. While Tamim Iqbal’s start remains the prelude to Bangladesh’s success, Mushfiqur Rahim’s finishing touch remains equally valuable.

Bangladesh’s journey as big boys in ODI cricket mainly began in 2015. That year, they made it to the quarterfinal of the World Cup held in Australia-New Zealand and beat Pakistan, India and South Africa at a stretch. There is no denying the fact that when Bangladesh gets the momentum, they become unstoppable. And Mushfiqur Rahim was the reason that Bangladesh gathered the momentum in the whole tournament. His 71 runs against Afghanistan there and the 77-ball 106 against Pakistan in a bilateral series gave Bangladesh the steam for a whole year.

Over the years, it has been statistically proved that in terms of chasing tough scores in difficult conditions or hitting match-winning knocks, Mushfiqur is his own competitor. He remains Bangladesh’s most successful batsman in the alien conditions of Australia, South Africa and England. In these countries, he averaged more than 50 across the three formats of the game.

“To be honest, I always prepare myself before any tournament or series. I try to make as much preparation as I can. I keep practicing until I am satisfied. Of course, practice doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to be successful in a match, but at least it gives me confidence,” Mushfiqur said.

As a person, Mushfiqur is known to be emotional, but his mental strength is well documented in the matches what he chased tough targets successfully under enormous pressure.

There is little to argue about his tag as ‘Mr Dependable’. However, he has been criticised lately for the three knocks that failed to help Bangladesh get over the line. His critics point at his last-over dismissal during chases in Bangalore in 2016 against India in World T20, against Afghanistan in Dehradun in 2018, and against West Indies in 2018 in the second ODI at Guyana. All of a sudden these critics seem to have discovered his mental block.

Mushfiqur, however, remained calm in dealing with the criticism. “One day you will be a hero for a particular shot. The very next day, you will be a villain for another particular shot. This is what make the great of cricket uncertain. My favourite shot is cover drive. If that shot fetches me a six, people will say how tremendous that stroke was. But if I get out playing this shot, people will say what a silly shot to play,” he said.

“I think in cricket there is something like low risk and high risk. I need to assess the situation to decide when to play a low-risk shot and when to play a high-risk shot. I will say we were unlucky in Dehradun. The condition was tougher. Mahmudullah Riyad and I were struggling even after playing together for eight to 10 overs. Nine runs were needed in the last over. It might appear  an easy situation, but the ground was smaller and taking singles was not easy. I tried playing both low-risk and high-risk, but just wasn’t successful,” he explained.

“I will say that I was in fault in Bangalore. I needed to play in singles. But I thought everything was under control after getting two boundaries. Honestly, rather than watching the ball, I was thinking about the outcome of the result. It was a big mistake, but at the same time it was a big learning curve for me,” he said.

“People also talk about the second ODI against West Indies. But I will say it was not a fault on my part. I got a new player at the non-striker’s end. Sabbir was there earlier and got out. If he could give me the strike, or hit a boundary, or take at least two runs, the pressure would have eased. But he got out and I had to take the risk. I had no alternative,” he added.

After the Bangalore debacle, Hardik Pandya, an Indian player, said in an interview that he had known Mushfiqur was not able to hit sixes. Mushfiqur has never reacted to this, but let his bat do the talking. The 35 ball-72 not out in chasing 215 (Bangladesh’s biggest chase) was the testament of his ability to hit sixes. “I don’t play cricket to prove anything to anybody else. I am just accountable to myself. After playing for 13 years, I don’t think I need to show someone that I can hit sixes,” he said.

As India was ousted from the World T20 after being defeated by West Indies in a semi-final game, Mushfiqur’s tweet to congratulate the Caribbean side was seen as his emotional reaction. “I have learnt to control my emotions once I became father of a son. But I believe as long as your emotion is under control, you can do good things. Without proper emotion, it is hard to be successful. But at the same time, you have to be professional. But yes, there were times when I shouldn't have expressed my emotions. Now, I am getting older and trying to be more complete. So, I think when your emotions work in a right way, anything is achievable,” he said.