Under the SKanner: It's Mushfiqur's Time
He will have another opportunity to be a hero and to inspire his teammates to inspire the next generation.
A five-feet-something chirpy wicketkeeper who can decimate the oppositions with the bat. If I had to define Mushfiqur Rahim in a sentence, this would be it.
But this (once young) wicket keeper-batsman has come a long way. So has his Bangladesh Cricket Team. They’ve seen abysmal lows, they’ve almost touched hard-fought victories before squandering it all, Mushfiqur’s Bangladesh has seen it all. Mushfiqur himself, has seen a bit more.
It’s never easy to lead a side which has such a raucous fan base which means immense support when you’re doing well but also colossal pressure when you’re not. To his credit, Mushfiq has done exceedingly well at managing that.
When Rahim made his debut in 2005 against England at the iconic Lord’s, the Bangladeshi team looked drastically different from what it does today. Bangladesh had gotten a test status courtesy the BCCI’s backing but no one wanted to play them. And in their defense they weren’t entirely wrong. Bangladesh was a team of primary kids asked to jump classes to secondary school only to find out that they didn't belong.
It’s tough to grow up in a sport where you don't have heroes to look up to. For long Bangladeshi kids saw the best crop of their cricketers vanquished by second string sides from other nations. It’s tough to find inspiration when you witness something like that. Rahim was from the same generation which didn't have heroes to look up to or David vs Goliath games to speak of. But his generation had one opportunity. An opportunity to be heroes, be the first from their land to believe.
But while all of this was true, so were the English bowlers and English conditions. On the morning of his debut test, Mushfiq saw a repeat of what he had seen on TV growing up. Greats from his nation viz. Habibul Bashar, Khaled Mashud, and Aftab Ahmed to name a few, capitulated against England. Bangladesh’s first innings lasted three minutes short of three hours.
An 18 year old Mushfiq on his debut scored 19 & 3. There are no substantial media interviews where he has spoken of his debut and what he felt after the game which Bangladesh lost by an innings and 261 runs . But it’d be a fair estimation to say that Rahim wasn’t looking at a heroic future. Not anytime soon.
Cut to 2017, Bangladesh are hosting Australia almost 11 years after they first hosted the Aussies. A series where Bangladesh barely won a session while Australia toyed with them. But this is 2017, the United States has a president who is every late night comic’s delight, the UK is no more a part of the European Union and Shahid Afridi is…well, still playing cricket somewhere and scoring too!
Bangladesh are far from the pushovers they were back then. They defeated South Africa, India and Pakistan in consecutive ODI series. They defeated England in a test last year and Sri Lanka in their 100th test in March this year. And the young Mushfiq then, is now the captain of this Bangladeshi side.
And this time, as he hosts Australia he is confident. He is looking at the future and he believes, Bangladesh believe. In the build-up to the first test, he said that this is the ‘best time’ to face Australia. This isn’t a new found confidence, neither is this an epiphany. This is a lot of sweat, loads of perseverance and immense dedication speaking. This is a man who believes in his team because he has built it, seen it fall and get back up. It’s his team.
This is also a batsman who believes he can deliver. In his last 7 test innings, Rahim has scored four fifties and two hundreds. Both the centuries came outside of Bangladesh in New Zealand and India. And both were marathon innings. While he played 365 balls for his 159 at Wellington, he played 381 balls for his 127 in Hyderabad.
So, as Bangladesh get ready to face the Aussie challenge, Mushfiq is maybe ready to take his team a notch higher. Rise another level on the index of belief. An index they have apparently come way up on. Also, an index they have to scale more of.
While they begin on that journey, amongst other relevant figures in this Bangladeshi side, Mushfiq’s role will be key. 12 years ago he came into a side of men who were the best from Bangladesh but not good enough at the highest level. 12 years on, he will welcome youngsters to his side, while he does that, he must make sure that they’re coming into a side that knows that it belongs at the highest level.
Come Australia, Bangladesh will have another opportunity to strengthen their position as a permanent test side. Come Bangladesh, Mushfiq will have another opportunity to be a hero and to inspire his teammates to inspire the next generation. To give them games to remember and moments to cherish. Unlike way back in 2005, this Bangladeshi team is more than capable of doing so. So is their captain.