Missing Mustafizur
12:00 AM, April 28, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:47 AM, April 28, 2017

Missing Mustafizur

The IPL is nearing a climactic phase. Yet, it holds little excitement and appeal for Bangladeshis in general. Shakib, a world-class all-rounder, more or less a regular feature on the Kolkata franchise, has had just one outing for the Knight Riders. And, Mustafizur Rahman, once called a 'revelation' from Bangladesh, lovingly nicknamed Fizz, has been 'benched' by Sunrisers Hyderabad after playing just once.

Well, that single performance of his in the current edition of the IPL was disastrous – I would like to add – by Fizz's standards. He gave away 19 runs in his first over, 11 runs in the second and four in four balls in a final match deciding over.

If his conceding that many runs in the first over was held against him, one has to only cite 26 runs scored off Umesh Yadav's over, let alone 17 or so runs milked off Henriques or quite a few other bowlers. Yet their skipper or management kept faith with them.  

How could the management of the Sunrisers Hyderabad be oblivious of the fact that Mustafiz has to his credit, after the first year of his appearance in international cricket, two top accolades? Last year, the IPL and this year the ICC adjudged him as 'the emerging cricketer' of the series and the world at large respectively.

Since his return from injury in August 2015 Mustafiz's performance graph has been on a decline. Although he may be down, he surely is not out of depth or devoid of prowess to build on his repertoire. Statistics bear this out. In ODIs against New Zealand and Sri Lanka his average has been 23.5 and 28.5 per wicket, respectively. In Tests against Sri Lanka the average worked out to 27.5 per wicket.

These are quite good numbers but they pale in comparison with the spectacular 12.34 and 14.5 averages he had recorded in ODIs and Tests prior to his lengthy lay-off.

The veteran of many injuries, Mashrafe Mortaza, having an insight into world cricket, has correctly diagnosed Mustafiz's problem. On the highly competitive cricketing circuits there are astute analysts watching over extraordinary emerging cricketers to read into their strengths and weaknesses. Then they come up with solutions for a crack at one with bowling wizardry.

Back to the IPL sidelining Fizz so far, well, there were Tom Moody and Muttiah Muralitharan as Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling coaches! They could give Fizz tips and let him be taken on board for a few more games in the IPL with his potential for nail-hitting yorkers. Of course, in the razzle-dazzle of cricketing commercialism different equations may be brought into play with so many players to choose from.

It is not an overstatement to say that every time the Sunrisers Hyderabad were scheduled to play, Bangladesh's interest would centre on one question: Is Mustafizur playing in this game? And, they would scan sports pages of newspapers, watch TV channels, and follow pre-game expert discussions to find an answer to that million dollar question. Such is the craze for the wonder boy that they would have stared at the stamp-sized photo serial on the TV screen to see if the darling of Bangladesh cricket and the toast of Sussex team, the first to be beholden to Mustafiz, is going to feature in the IPL series at all.

Mustafiz in action has been a delight to see and cherish. His effortless bowling action minus any hint of a grimace or a grunt, just before delivering a ball and his look-what-I-have-done chuckle before a scuttled wicket or sharp catch off his bowling, has been a treat to watch.

If there are any issues with his rhythm, line, length, pace and variations they can be overcome with practice under the guidance of Courtney Walsh. Stepping out of the lap of Satkhira, grooming under the nature's wings and the smell of the soil stuck with him, his kind of talent is inherently sustainable. After having mastered his art of bowling guiles, he has a long way to go reinventing himself and conquering the wiles of top batsmen of the world. For the time being, as the reputed Australian cricketer and ubiquitous commentator Dean Jones has said, Mustafiz would do well to add eight more kg to his bodyweight.

The writer is a current affairs commentator and former Associate Editor, The Daily Star.

E-mail: shahhusainimam@gmail.com  

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