The flickering light of Mustafizur Rahman and Bangladesh pace battery

The Tigers’ premier speedster has hit a wall and it was glaringly palpable in the T20Is in India.

Mustafizur Rahman
Mustafizur Rahman. (Photo by Andy Kearns/Getty Images)

The face of Bangladesh cricket has been painted, mostly, by the spinners, left-arm spinners to be precise. It became somewhat tedium and an eleven without one was alike a bolt from the blue. Mohammad Rafique perched at the helm before the likes of Shakib Al Hasan began making merry. Amidst the glitz and glamour of turn and bounce, the fast bowling unit kept gasping for breath.

It’s been 19 years since the Tigers forayed into Test cricket, yet their inclination towards spinners haven’t seen an aberration. The pitches in Bangladesh haven’t promoted pace bowling to any extent and on instances, even all-spin attack has been employed. Barring Mashrafe Mortaza and Rubel Hossain in ODIs, no other fast bowler is even near to the 100-wicket mark irrespective of the format.

To their woes, even as Mashrafe is at the twilight of his career, Rubel has blown hot and cold after his heroic spell against England in the 2015 World Cup. But in the last four years, Bangladesh have seen light at the end of the tunnel- it came in the form of Mustafizur Rahman. The question was whether the Tigers were capable of leaving the tunnel behind or remain in the grip of darkness.

Mustafizur Rahman staring at a hazy future

Four years down the line, the question remains. Let alone bridging the gap between light and dark, it won’t be an understatement, saying that the gap has soared. In 2015, Mustafizur rolled his fingers over to bamboozle batsmen of the highest stature. In 2019, the same antics have turned into a slow poison, slowly but surely, eroding him and his career. Ominous signs, especially at the age of 24.

His initial rise made him an automatic choice, if fit, in the Bangladesh lineup. Fizz made impacts strong enough to turn indispensable, so much so that a few of his failures went unnoticed. He has hit a wall and it was glaringly palpable in the T20Is in India. That he remained wicketless and was the most expensive of the regular bowlers with an economy of 9.51 didn’t help his cause by any means.

The southpaw lost his place in the Test side, albeit for only a solitary game in Indore. Bearing in mind the pace attack’s experience, the move was a bold one. But did his Test numbers warrant him a place parking aside the other factors? A bowler with six fifers in ODIs and T20Is has none in Tests.

His dextrous cutters have lost bite; batters aren’t oblivious that after four years and 106 games for Bangladesh, the pacer is yet to learn the art of shaping the ball into the right-hander. A T20 snub may be lurking around the corner. Also, 28 wickets in 13 Tests aren’t just numbers given his talent.

Is everything well with the Fizz? No

Mustafizur Rahman
Mustafizur Rahman. (Photo by Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Since Mustafizur’s debut back in April 2015, Bangladesh have taken part in 28 Tests, 70 ODIs and 51 T20Is and the speedster’s turnout equates to 71 per cent. In Test cricket, the seamer has missed more matches than he has played. During this while, the Tigers pocketed a solitary overseas Test win against Sri Lanka and lost 11 games. Even at home, Bangladesh are seeming to lose their invincibility.

Zimbabwe inflicted them with a 151-run defeat last year in Sylhet followed by the 224-run trouncing at the hands of Rashid Khan’s Afghanistan in Chattogram. Mustafizur missed both the games due to his ever-lasting tussles with injuries. From toe, ankle to shoulder, his not-so-exotic relationship with his body is an open secret. It has done good to neither the pacer, nor Bangladesh.

“It cannot go on like this. He will pick up injuries while playing in the franchise league and won’t be available to perform national duty. It’s just not acceptable. I have told him that he will not be available abroad for the next two years,” BCB President Nazmul Hasan said. Papon’s outburst wasn’t questionable as in 2016 and 2018, Mustafizur picked up injuries, playing in the T20 Blast and the IPL.

Who apart from the Fizz?

Mustafizur Rahman
Bangladesh’s Mustafizur Rahman. (Photo Source: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

Keeping Mustafizur aside, going by numbers, Mohammad Saifuddin has emerged as a promising fast-bowling prospect. To add insult to injury, even he has had his fair share of intimacy with injuries at the age of 23. Saifuddin is undergoing rehab after his back problem. Taskin Ahmed staked his claim back into the national team after an impressive BPL 2019-20, but injuries have turned detrimental.

Rubel’s indifferent run of form has meant that he isn’t quite the brute force he used to be even a couple of years ago. Rather forcibly, the Bangladesh team management has to fall back to the likes of Shafiul Islam and Al Amin Hossain, both of whom promised to start with, but inconsistency kept marring their career. The lack of pacers has hurt Bangladesh in conditions, not suitable for spinners.

The sight of Abu Jayed finding Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara’s outside edge in Indore would’ve taken the Tigers’ fans and the team management to seventh heaven. And then, when Jayed thudded Virat Kohli on the pads, pinning him for a duck, the entire nation would’ve turned into ripsnorters. To his misfortune, there was minimal support from the others in Indore.

Jayed’s four-wicket haul was sort of a cathartic release of the pent-up emotions for the Tigers. Somebody had to put the hands up to rescue Bangladesh’s pace battery from, dying an unnatural death. But back in 2015 the same amount of ecstasy was sprinkled by even Mustafizur Rahman.

However, he is steadfastly being gobbled by the quicksand, composed of poor form and injuries. Can Abu Jayed ensure that he carries, adds to his repertoire and scale new heights for Bangladesh fast bowling? More importantly, can Mustafizur drag himself out of the muddle and rediscover himself?

Let’s wait for time to reveal.

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