26th May, 2005. I’m 12 years old, probably on seventh grade. Bangladesh is playing against England, at Lord’s. A teenager makes his debut.  He makes 19 off 56 balls. He is a short man, often struggles with the bouncers- particularly bowled by Harmission and Flintoff on English pitches. Bangladesh loses by an innings and 261 runs.

His name is Mushfiqor Rahim. At five feet two, People say, he is a small lad with a small heart.

17th March, 2007. I’m on ninth grade and two years older. Mushfiqor Rahim is 19 year old and playing his 7th ODI. It’s a big match- a world cup. Country boy Mortaza bowls his heart out. A full strength Indian side is bowled out for 191. Bangladesh is chasing totals without fear. Of course, they have nothing to lose. India is knocked out of the tournament and Mushfiour is the architect of the merciless assault, making solid 56*.

He has grown one or two inches taller. People have started saying, he is still a small lad but no more a lad with small heart.

8th February 2010. I’m at Kathmandu now. After 6 days, a lot of us will be celebrating Valentine day without a valentine. The air at Kirtipur is chilling cold. Occasionally, it looks as if it would rain but it doesn’t. Tresses have shed their leaves and they look like the statue of a naked man. The atmosphere isn’t pleasant at all but it’s New Zealand VS Bangladesh at Oval.

A boring match, as many critics would argue.

Bangladesh is already five for 25. Mushfiqor walks in and makes 86. Bangladesh makes respectable 183 and loses by 5 wickets.

Yet another loss!!

There is bravery in defeat.

11th March 2013. I have just completed second year at college and these days I don’t watch cricket as much as I used to do in the past. Bangladesh is taking on Srilanka at Galle- their favorite hunting ground. The home side declares at 540 for 4. The visitors reply with an imposing 638; Dhaka’s favorite son making a double ton.

Srilanka manage a draw.

His name is still Mushfiqor Rahim. But he is not the Mushfiqor Rahim of the past; He has grown up into a man.

Today is June 4th, 2015. It has been more than six months since I graduated from college and it has been more than a decade since I have been watching Rahim on TV.

Tomorrow, Bangladesh will be taking on South Africa at home. Today at Kathmandu, it’s a bit cold, even for a June day. May be because, it rained during the afternoon. It’s ten in the evening and I’m writing about a man who has already played international cricket for 10 years. He’s 28. I too, have grown ten years older.

In this era of thick bats and small boundaries, where a good fast bowler is judged not with the consistency in his pace but with the type of variations he bowls and a batsman is judged not with his average but with his strike rate, among what rank shall we put Mushfiqor Rahim?

Over the years, we have spoiled our eyes watching the likes of Lara, Ganguly, Laxman, Gower and Jayawerdena.  So, Mushfiqor Rahim never looks a graceful batsman in our eyes. We have seen so much of Richards, Mccullum, Devilliers, Gayle and Warner on TV that Mushfiqor Rahim will never look the most aggressive batsman around.

What makes him special?

Perhaps, his distinctive smile!! Gentle and innocent!!

His selection as a teenager was a gamble of the selectors but over the years, he has transformed into a cricketer more useful than he might have been expected to become. He is one of the senior most cricketers in Bangladesh today and has made runs when his team is in need of it.

He is a humble man, doesn’t boasts of his success. Bangladesh is improved side and a lot of credit goes to Mushfiqor, Sakib, Mortaza and to a man called Dav Whatmore, who, over the years, has shaped the fate of Bangladeshi cricket, more than anyone else despite coaching for just four years (2003-2007).

Mushfiqor doesn’t seem to rely on his fate or his in-born talent. A lot of his achievements are the consequence of his hard-work and his willingness to succeed.  On his debut at lords, once Whatmore remarked, “He has been a class above the others. He played and missed and got out to a beautiful delivery that hit the top of off, but I’ve seen enough already to know he has got a good future.”

His transformation as a cricketer could be exemplary for any cricketer- in fact for any sportsman.

Mushi has captained the side too but it looks as if he has always been struggling with the role. He has his limitations. He doesn’t have big imposing figure like Graeme Smith or Imran Khan. He also doesn’t have cricketing resource like Ponting. Unlike Dhoni, fate had never been with him as a leader.  He is a better player without the load of the captaincy.

Bangladesh isn’t the best cricketing side in the world and there aren’t that much cricketers of the past that a youngster could idolize. What would have encouraged Mushfiqor to become competitive at international level?

He averages just over 30 in the longer and the shorter formats but statistics only suggest half of the story. His achievements are still very good for a wicketkeeper batsman and most of his big innings have come up when all his teammates have failed. Only Matt Prior, Brad Haddin and M.S Dhoni might have a better record than him in the last five years as full time wicketkeepers.

But, it’s high time that he should handle the keeping glove to a young bloke and play as a premier batsman of the side. 20 year old Litton Das could be a good choice. Rahim has been the most consistent Bangladeshi Batsman for last two years or so and we’d love to see him at his best in the coming days.

2015-07-04, Saturday

civabhusal@gmail.com

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