What lies in Mustafizur’s Test future?
Bangladesh drafted Shoriful Islam into the squad for the second Test against West Indies, with the pace bowler joining up with the team in St. Lucia on Tuesday. Despite bowling being one of the positive aspects of the Tigers' performances in the first Test in Antigua, the decision to call on Shoriful leaves Mustafizur Rahman's participation in the second Test in question.
24-year-old Shoriful's Test career is just four games old, but the left-armer has already garnered praise for his efforts with the ball, especially in the Test series against New Zealand this year. On the other hand, Mustafizur's availability was murky ahead of the series after a few exchanges of words in the media between the board and the player while Fizz was playing in the IPL.
The pacer had cited workload management as reason he wanted to stay away from Test cricket and focus solely on white-ball cricket. For a long time, Fizz was overlooked in the longer format. Russell Domingo cited that the bowler had to learn to bring the ball back into right-handed batters in order to find his way back into the Test line-up.
Between 2019 and 2021, Fizz played just one Test. He returned to the side more than a year later for the first Test against West Indies in Antigua, having last appeared against West Indies at home in February 2021.
For a long time, however, Fizz had been allowed to pick and choose formats. But the BCB's decision to dictate who will opt out of which series saw them send a letter asking him to clear his stance on Test cricket. With Taskin Ahmed and Shoriful Islam both having been initially ruled out of the Tests, the BCB had little room to manoeuvre in terms of replacements and Fizz was drafted back in despite not being handed a Test contract for 2022.
Fizz's reluctance was perhaps evident before and skipper Shakib Al Hasan opined that no one could be inspired out of the blue to appear in Tests.
"I don't think anyone can be inspired out of nowhere," Shakib had said ahead of the series. "As he [Mustafizur] is in the series, I'm sure he is motivated to play these two matches. That is important for us. As captain, I'm focused on these two matches and he looked very motivated to play," he added.
Fizz bowled 18 overs in the first innings in Antigua, giving away just 30 runs while bagging the very first wicket at an economy of 1.66 on his return. He was hard to get away and, in the first day's play, his 12 overs saw just 10 runs conceded.
His rhythm had been great in the beginning and he was right in the zone, getting the ball to shape back into the right-handed Kraigg Brathwaite on quite a few occasions. However, his average pace would drop between the first session and third and, despite a good line-and-length, he did not threaten as greatly as the effects of not playing in the format for a long time perhaps showed.
While Ebadot Hossain had bowled 28 overs in that first innings, Fizz could be used for just 18. However, it was the absence of wickets with the new ball, together with Fizz's workload management, which may very well see the pacer rested for the second Test in St. Lucia.
However, as pace bowling coach Alan Donald previously said about Fizz, the decision about whether he wants to keep playing Tests in the future remains a personal issue because of the impact it could have on his performances in the white-ball formats.