A big talking point surrounding Bangladesh’s two-wicket loss to New Zealand was established long before the result, when wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim negated a sure run out of Kane Williamson by dislodging the bails with his elbows when trying to intercept a throw from Tamim Iqbal at mid on that was heading for the stumps anyway.
New Zealand were then 60 for two, and Ross Taylor and Williamson’s eventual 105-run third-wicket stand was then just five runs old. The knives were out for Mushfiqur because it has long been perceived that his keeping errors had cost Bangladesh at crucial junctures.
“Mushy, I don’t think we need to go after him,” Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza said in the post-match press conference when asked whether Mushfiqur’s keeping was up to the mark. “It could happen with anybody but he was also trying hard to get him [Williamson]. That throw was straight but as a keeper it was very difficult to know if it was straight or not. He wanted to take the ball and suddenly it [the stumps] hit his elbow. That sort of mistake happens, but I don’t think we should go after him.”
The question was a pointed one because Bangladesh have two other wicketkeepers in the squad. Mohammad Mithun was part of the eleven and the jury is out about his keeping abilities compared to Mushfiqur’s, but Liton Das -- on the bench for the first two matches of the World Cup -- is generally perceived to be among the two best keepers in Bangladesh, the other being Nurul Hasan. In Bangladesh’s 21-run win over South Africa on Sunday, Mushfiqur had dropped a straightforward chance off South Africa opener Quinton de Kock, but the error was forgotten because the South African ambled out of his crease and Mushfiqur managed to throw down the stumps and run him out.
“If you don’t score big you have to take these chances. It’s part of the game, it happens. No one wants to make these mistakes, but I think the big mistakes were done in batting. Getting set and getting out. If we could have scored 25-30 runs more, it could have been a different match, because the outfield was slower than other matches.”
It was not the only run out of which Mushfiqur found himself on the wrong side; he was run out soon after putting on a 50-run third-wicket stand with Shakib Al Hasan earlier in the day, and Mashrafe identified that rather than the let-off of Williamson as the turning point.
“Turning point was that run out. Because they were both set, and then Shakib and Mithun got a 41-run partnership and then Shakib got out. Those two partnerships, if they got going -- to 80 or 100, it could have been a different score.”
Even before the start of the World Cup, Mashrafe as the captain and elder statesman of the team has been eager to shield his players from pressure and his defence of Mushfiqur could be seen as an extension of that. However, while answering another question over bowling Shakib for seven overs up front and not having enough of the ace all-rounder in the middle and at the end, Mashrafe revealed just how important that wicket was.
“The plan was to bring in Shakib because the right-hander was there and the new ball was gripping a bit,” Mashrafe said. “So we thought that if it’s gripping, Shakib can play the role. Shakib got us a wicket [that of Martin Guptill off the first ball he bowled in the fifth over] and we knew we had to get either one of Ross Taylor or Williamson out; that is why Shakib bowled a bigger spell, because we really wanted one wicket in that particular time.”