‘Fizz stuck in T20 mindset in ODIs’
Despite being among the most experienced pacers in Bangladesh's bowling unit, Mustafizur Rahman's listless performances in the 50-over format have quickly become one of the biggest concerns for the Tigers in recent times.
The left-arm seamer has been struggling to live up to the expectations that were placed on his shoulders after his heroic entry to international cricket eight years ago, when the 'Fizz' became an overnight sensation in 2015.
His mysterious cutters and unpredictability impressed on the international stage against the likes of Pakistan, India and South Africa. But over the years, it seems that his arsenal has become stale and far too predictable. The 27-year-old was ordinary in the two ODIs against England and went wicketless but, more importantly, Mustafizur's lack of venom has made it difficult for the captain to exploit his expertise.
Mustafizur also struggled to contain runs and create pressure on the English batters, an aspect of bowling that was considered his forte when he emerged.
Despite pacer Taskin Ahmed bowling brilliantly from one end during the two ODIs against England, Mustafizur was unable to complement that partnership, leaking runs frequently. So far, he has conceded 105 runs from 18 overs in the two ODIs against England at an economy of 5.83.
According to veteran pace-bowling coach Sarwar Imran, a lack of pace and consistency has made him predictable even in home conditions.
"I think Mustafizur has become too predictable; bowling slowers right from the start. His slowers have become predictable because all the teams have done their homework. I think his ability to bowl quick around the off stump and allow the ball to cut away from right-handers has decreased compared to the past. I think his lack of control is also very crucial and I don't see consistency in terms of his line and length. That is important in ODI format," Imran told The Daily Star yesterday.
But this has not developed during the England series. Since 2022, Mustafizur has managed 14 wickets in 16 ODIs at an average of over 35. In that time, his best bowling figures are four for 17 from 5.2 overs in Zimbabwe.
Mustafizur has been labelled a T20 bowler due to his inability to adapt to different formats and it seems the left-arm seamer is unsure of his role in the ODI format.
"I think he probably tried too many things at the same time and that backfired for him. He developed a delivery that comes into the right-hander, but even that is missing these days. There is a difference between T20s and ODIs, where the captain could use his premier pacer in various situations.
"He needs to develop his stock deliveries since batters won't try to play over the top most of the time in ODIs like they do in T20s. I think Mustafizur's wicket-taking ability has decreased because he is bowling with a T20 mindset in the 50-over format," he added.
Questions have already started to be raised about whether the Fizz has become an 'automatic choice' for the team management despite his lack of improvement and consistency. Although skipper Tamim Iqbal defended Mustafizur, many others have used Taskin's transformation based around fitness and mindset compared to the lack thereof from Mustafizur.
Be it a lack of hunger or just as simple case of complacency, Mustafizur must realise that the likes of Hasan Mahmud, Shoriful Islam, Ebadot Hossain and other pacers are hot on his trail.
Given that the Tigers have already lost their series against England in new coach Chandika Hathurusingha's first assignment and considering the Sri Lankan's philosophy, it will not be easy for Mustafizur to continue for long without performing.