If there is one thing that permeates every facet of Mushfiqur Rahim's identity as a cricketer and, as proved once again in the Asia Cup opener on Saturday, his status as Bangladesh's best all-round batsman it is his monk-like dedication to prepare as well as humanly possible.
He drew on the Zen-like calm that exhaustive levels of honing inevitably brings while authoring a sublime 150-ball 144 that started in 40-plus degree Celsius heat and went through the travails of a misfiring batting line-up. While a top order collapse and a middle order flurry of wickets is part and parcel of Bangladesh cricket, the Dubai heat in September is not something that any of the team had experienced.
“This is why we train. We don't have experience of batting in such conditions in the past but nobody really notices the hard work we put in at training,” Mushfiqur said yesterday at the team's Dubai hotel. “We don't see you when we go for the running sessions at 8:00am. You come after 10:00am or 11:00am. The whole team dedicates itself to such training and this is the just result. [Mohammad] Mithun could have played such an innings because he too prepares himself really well.”
He scored his first 10 runs off 31 deliveries, making sure there were no further damages after Bangladesh lost two wickets in the first over and Tamim Iqbal through injury in the second, talking Mohammad Mithun -- making a comeback to the side -- through the tough phase and some false shots. He hit the side's first boundary in the last ball of the eighth over, which in these boundary-filled times shows how tough those first 10 overs were.
Having shown his skill of endurance, the multi-layered Mushfiqur then set about taking the attack apart, bringing up his 50 off 67 balls.
“Mithun really helped me with his positive intent, he made things easier for me. I thought if we could build a partnership -- it was a very good batting wicket -- we would be back on track,” said Mushfiqur. “But he got out at a bad time because a set batsman should not have gotten out at that time.”
Mithun faltered in the 26th over, playing across the line to Malinga and getting out, precipitating a collapse of three wickets for 10 runs. Mushfiqur returned to endurance mode and continued to inch Bangladesh towards a competitive total with a string of small partnerships with the lower order.
When Tamim made his heroic appearance on 229 for nine, when all 13 players on the ground had thought the innings over, Mushfiqur went up a gear that probably he alone has in Bangladesh. At his best, his arsenal of shots is so varied that no delivery, even yorkers, escape punishment. There was the scoop that turned into a ramp at the last second, inside-out cover drives for a four and a six and a pulled six that would have been expected of a batsman twice his size.
It speaks to the scale of his ambition and his ability that, while the rest of the world raves about the innings, Mushfiqur would not say that it was his best innings.
“All things considered, many may say that,” Mushfiqur said. “But I think in the future there may be better innings. But till now, it is one of the best; not the best.”
About Tamim coming out to bat with a broken wrist, Mushfiqur -- nursing an injured rib himself -- said: “It was unbelievable. It was different from mine because he could not grip the bat at all. All of us have the dedication for the team and country. Of course the focus is on the two of us because the team won because of us, but even when we lose the dedication is the same.”