How Mustafizur Rahman has helped win back Indian fans' respect towards Bangladesh cricket
Back in the days when I was a child, I remember this incident that left a mark on the walls of my memory. I was one of those kids with a tiny frame and one who got bullied at school. There was this local Arab kid that constantly harassed kids who were smaller in size.
A kid’s mind can’t comprehend much, the signals pass through the neurons in the simplest of fashions—unlike the tapestry it weaves within the chambers of an adult’s brain. To my then simple mind, Arab kids became a personification of evil; a second-coming of the devil himself.
20 years down the line, I can’t help but laugh at my naivety. As the sands of time kept flowing, my opinion changed dramatically. Right now, I can proudly say that some of the best people I have had the privilege of knowing are Arabs.
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2015 was a great year for Bangladesh cricket. With series wins over India, Pakistan and South Africa, they showed that they are no longer minnows in the world of cricket. In the midst of such a glorious time, the moon among the stars was a 20-year old left-arm pacer: Mustafizur Rahman.
A little over a year ago, hardly anyone knew his name. Right now, he finds the world at his feet after an incredible campaign in the IPL, where he was awarded the Emerging Player of the tournament.
Between his international debut and final IPL game, a lot happened—most of it, unfortunately, oozing the ugly side of the game.
The fans in the subcontinent are known for their vehement passion for the game. It is perhaps the reason for the over-zealous nature of India and Bangladesh fans. While the former are already infamous for their obnoxiousness, the latter also joined the Club of Intolerable Fans as their nation were flying high with the clouds of triumph.
Bangladesh’s new-found success was a source of great joy for the fans. Shrouded by the mist of elation, however, most Bangladeshi fans crossed lines they shouldn’t have. They had become the exact thing that they hated: insolent ignoramuses who have no idea of what healthy banter is, like some fans of the Indian cricket team.
As they flooded the social media with morbid photoshopped images that oozed distasteful behavior, fans in the cricket fraternity witnessed it with a grimacing face. The reputation of Bangladesh cricket took a severe hit and one could see how people started disliking the Tigers within the space of a few months itself.
Hence, whenever Bangladesh played, most people rooted for the team they were pitted against. It was a sad picture to witness since it wasn’t a long time ago when those very people cheered for Bangladesh from a neutral’s perspective.
This had a direct impact on how the fans of other team treated the Bangladeshi players as well. One could actually hear the disgruntled cacophony of people mocking the players and hoping that they failed, for they could then cachinnate at the Bangladesh fans.
However, right now, if one asked them about Bangladesh, most would come up with one simple response: “you mean the awesome Mustafizur’s country?”
Even before the IPL began, the young star had made his name with salient displays in international cricket. However, since almost all of his games were played in his homeland, there were cynics who were expecting him to fail on Indian tracks.
However, with 17 wickets from 16 IPL games, while bowling at an economy rate of under 7, he was unarguably one of the best bowlers in the tournament—someone whose bowling in the death overs won Hyderabad a great many games.
His fantastic displays in the IPL won him a million more fans as almost every Indian now praises him for his exceptional display of pace bowling in the tournament. In fact, even when he didn’t have a good game, people would encourage him.
A dropped catch became a good effort, a poor ball became a rare miscue—for the fans and critics now, he could do no wrong. One could just listen to the commentators while he was bowling; for all they ever did was laud him with various superlatives.
All of a sudden, the hostility that was enmeshed in the air between India and Bangladesh cricket seems to have disappeared—for now, at least—just like how my opinion on Arabs changed. Indian fans now cheer for a Bangladeshi louder than their own bowlers. All this was possible because of one man only: Mustafizur Rahman—the pacer that carries a huge world on his tiny yet capable shoulders.