Mushfiqur is his ‘own opponent’
Only a solitary fifty came from the bat of Mushfiqur Rahim, Bangladesh's batting mainstay, in his last 25 T20Is. The experienced batsman, who is trying to find his usual rhythm in this format, has also had a torrid time in three practise matches ahead of the T20 World Cup, scheduled to begin tomorrow with Bangladesh taking on Scotland in Muscat.
This lack of runs from the bat of one of the most crucial cogs in the Tigers' middle order has created a lot of concern within the team. Talking with The Daily Star, Mushfiqur's childhood mentor Nazmul Abedeen Fahim tried to analyse and find the reasons behind his tutee's such dip in form.
Batting in the 24 innings in his last 25 T20Is, Mushfiqur scored only 346 runs at a plunging 16.47 average. His strike rate, the most important facet of T20 cricket, has also been below par as he batted at 102.67 rate during this period. Meanwhile, his last fifty came back in November 2019 against India.
The 34-year-old, who recently stepped aside from his wicketkeeping duties for the national side, scored a naught against Oman 'A' during Bangladesh's unofficial warm-up game while scoring just 13 and 4 in the two official warm-up games against Sri Lanka and Ireland respectively.
And BKSP cricket adviser Fahim thought that Mushfiqur's lack of form is a big concern for the side.
"Obviously it is a concern. It is very important to stay in good touch before the main tournament [T20 World Cup] as that gives you confidence. T20 is such a game that requires physical strength, but confidence is also very important. What usually happens is that batsmen gain confidence after staying at the crease for a while. But T20s do not give you that luxury as you need to score runs quickly. Not being able to score a while will lead a batsman to hurry a bit in search of runs. That would need him to step out of his comfort zone in order to perform. And it becomes difficult to perform for the batsman who lacks confidence," said Fahim.
Mushfiqur had three practise sessions under the supervision of Fahim in BKSP after failing to perform in the New Zealand series last month. After that he played two one-dayers and scored a few runs for Bangladesh 'A' against the High Performance (HP) side in Chattogram. He played a bit slow in the first one-dayer but seemed to be back into the groove as he scored quickly in the next game.
But those were different formats.
During the unofficial T20 World Cup warm-up game against Oman 'A', Mushfiqur tried to play a scoop shot in his first delivery. That scoop against a left-arm spinner ended up giving an easy catch to the Oman 'A' wicketkeeper. Such a shot surprised Fahim as well.
"He played two games in Chattogram. He scored a few runs in the first game and then made runs at a good rate in the second game. It seemed he had gotten his rhythm back. But the shot he played against Oman 'A' is a bit unacceptable to me. Why would a batsman, who can score runs with normal shots, opt for such and get caught?" wondered Fahim.
According to Fahim, Mushfiqur still needs to work on his mental framework on how to start an innings and gradually build it.
"I think he should make a routine as to how he will start an innings and build it gradually. I think he should have a solid initial structural gameplan," explained Fahim.
"Maybe there is no certain plan regarding the beginning of an innings. He may get into rhythm once he gets a start. But there should be a pattern and plan for this. I think he lacks in that area. Especially, the way he got out against Oman 'A' clearly depicts that there is indeed a deficit," Fahim added.
If the unofficial practise game against Oman 'A' is anything to go by, the surfaces in Oman, where Bangladesh will play all three of their qualifier matches, will be batting friendly. Mushfiqur would be happy that he gets to start the World Cup journey against comparatively easier opponents -- Scotland, World Cup co-hosts Oman and Papua New Guinea. But Fahim thinks that the real enemy is the obstacle of the mind, not the opponent as he said, "I don't think the opponents are the one standing in his way. He [his mind] is his own opponent."
It would be a huge problem for Bangladesh if Mushfiqur's bad run of form continues even in the World Cup. In the three matches of the qualifier stage, Fahim wants Mushfiqur to at least score in two games.
"Obviously, it creates a lot of pressure on the team if a batsman at number four constantly underperforms. Now he is playing only as a batsman. So it is expected of him that he would at least have big contributions in two of the three games [in the qualifier stage]. If he fails, it will create huge pressure on the team."