'Mushfiqur's hunger is always there'
Bangladesh Premier League frontrunners Sylhet Strikers arrived for the Sylhet leg on the back of several consistent performances and got the warmest of welcomes to the city from their fans but on the first day of the Sylhet phase, the home side faltered as they put up an underwhelming batting display on a fresh wicket at the Sylhet International Cricket Stadium that saw them suffer a six-wicket loss to Rangpur Riders on Friday.
Amongst many others particularly in Sylhet's top order, the focus has also been on the veteran middle-order batter Mushfiqur Rahim who is yet to come to the party at the ongoing BPL as the right-handed batter so far hasn't come up with anything that would justify his stature or his quality.
Mushfiq, on Friday, fell to his Achilles hill when Rangpur pacer Azmatullah Omarzai jagged one back off the surface and found the bat-pad gap to hit timber. The 35-year-old for a second straight time went back to the hut for naught and this time on the very first ball.
In the eight matches that he has played so far, Mushfiq has managed 106 runs at an average of 21.20 and an underwhelming strike rate of 116.48. And with Sylhet's top-order, who successfully did the job for the side in the first few matches, misfiring, the focus has very naturally shifted to the fairly untested middle-order where a batter of Mushfiq's pedigree is expected to deliver. The experienced batter hasn't been able to cross the 30-run mark in the eight innings he has batted and has to boast a best score of 28 so far in the tournament.
It is a well-known fact that Mushfiq is a player who believes in working very hard and comes straight from the ethic of arriving first to training and being the last one to leave.
Despite the slump, however, Sylhet Strikers batting coach Tushar Imran pointed out that the veteran batter doesn't leave anything to chance in training and that the hunger of scoring runs still burns inside the 35-year-old.
"Mushfiq has kept up his efforts. You know how he is. His hunger is always there even if he is not scoring runs. He comes in early to train and is trying in his own way. I hope he can come back to scoring runs from the next match," he said on Friday.
"You can't put any blame on him for getting dismissed on the very first ball. There could be questions if he got out playing a bad shot. If he gets set in the middle, then you would see him come into his own," he added.
On a fresh wicket, Sylhet struggled to tackle the movement that the Rangpur bowlers were able to achieve early on with the new ball.
Imran admitted that his side were a bit jaded while assessing the nature of the wicket which made adjusting difficult. The former national team opener also pointed out that no batter could carry on by weathering the storm to get their team to a defendable total.
"We took time to assess the wicket but they bowled really well. Mushfiq got dismissed by a very good delivery and besides, our top order has struggled with the bat in the last three matches. But if we could've had one or two batters staying till the end, we could've scored 160-170. Shanto did that in the last match and we scored 174 but on this occasion, no one could perform that role," he said.
"You still have to give credit to Mashrafe and Shakib because we managed to post a total of around 100 after the fall of 5-6 wickets," he added.
Having mentioned all that his side suffered in the loss against Rangpur, Imran admitted that the toss was a factor, saying that they wanted to bowl first on that fresh wicket.
"The toss has become vital. We would've fielded first too. The ball moved in the first three-four overs. Mushfiq got dismissed by a great delivery. Our batters have faults but if we can overcome these, we can do well in the next match," he said.