Sunday, December 3, 2023

Mushfiq a captain’s dream

Scarcely had the ball sailed over the thirty-yard circle did Mushfiqur Rahim let out a war cry signalling victory, that too in his first match as captain of the Tigers. It all seemed to be slipping away just as it had in that heartbreaking third ODI against Zimbabwe in Harare in mid-August, when Mushfiq had battled his way to a brilliant hundred, only to find himself on the losing side after bringing the team painfully close to victory in the last over of the chase.
Yesterday at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, Bangladesh needed 6 to win off the last over with Mushfiq on strike and four wickets in hand. The equation soon turned to 5 required off three deliveries with Nasir Hossain perishing off the third ball. Abdur Razzak came in and handed the strike to Mushfiq with four needed off two. The six he hit to seal the deal could hardly have tasted any sweeter.
But the man himself was the picture of calmness at the post-match press conference, graciously accepting the congratulations but all underpinned by a steel that revealed his character.
“I believed that if Nasir and I stay till the last over, even if we needed 10 or 15 runs, we would win,” said the new Bangladesh captain. “Also, we got some runs in the second-last over which was a bonus for us. In the last over, though Nasir got out, I had the confidence that if I got the ball in my zone then I could hit it for a four or six. Fortunately, that is what happened.”
When asked how he was feeling about his auspicious debut as captain, Mushfiq beamed and said, “Obviously I am delighted. Everyone wants the first match to be memorable, and I couldn’t have asked for more. We won the toss and it was the plan to bowl first because the due might be a factor, and our bowling is spin-reliant. We saved 10-12 runs on the field and there was a concerted effort to restrict them as much as possible.
“Our top order got us off to a good start, and in the middle West Indies bowled well and our batting collapsed a bit, but the lower-middle order made a valuable contribution in the form of Nasir and Naeem (Islam). Overall it was a great team effort.”
Mushfiqur also gave the bowlers the lion’s share of the credit, saying that 132 on this pitch was not a difficult total.
“I think we bowled fantastically well to restrict West Indies to 132. It was not a difficult total, but you know in T20 you can’t always be consistent as a batsman because you have to play so many shots.”
Inevitably, the question about the Harare heartbreak came up, but Mushfiqur said that the two situations were different.
“In Harare going into the last over we only had one wicket left, and I knew that even if I took a single at that point we would have lost the match; in other words it was all on me. Here, since we had three wickets left, I knew that even if I mishit the shot and we ran one or two there would still be a chance to win.
Another thing was that I was targeting the smaller side of the ground, and I was confident that even a mishit could travel for six.”
He impressed on the field as well, sticking by Rubel Hossain even after the fast bowler had been taken for 17 runs in one over during the Powerplay. “He got hit for two sixes, but one of them was a mishit, and these things can happen in Powerplays. But what I liked was he responded well to the responsibility placed on him and he came back well. He has been bowling really well, so I knew he could do the job.”
Despite the hammering in the one over, Rubel finished with a respectable 1-32 in his four overs, vindicating his captain’s faith.
Looking ahead to the one-dayers starting Thursday, the new skipper said that it would be a challenge that he is looking forward to.
“I think if you look at the two teams, West Indies were favourites to win this match, but it all comes down to who plays better on the day, and today we played well in all three departments, and we look forward to doing that in the one-dayers as well.”
On vice-captain Mahmud-ullah Riyad’s situation, Mushfiq felt that he had gone for some blood tests and hoped that he recovers from the viral fever within two or three days.
West Indies skipper Darren Sammy echoed his counterpart’s sentiments saying, “We knew it was going to be an interesting series. They held their nerves better than we did. We never took them for granted.”
He laid the blame for the loss on not scoring enough runs.
“We could have scored more runs, and we could have stopped more balls in the field. But in the end we made more mistakes than they did, that is why we lost.”
With the team not scoring enough runs, the inevitable question of missing big-hitting opener Chris Gayle came up. Sammy, however, insisted that it was not a problem.
“We have been playing without Chris Gayle since the World Cup, so we are used to it now. A lot of other guys have got the opportunity, so it’s no excuse.”

-With The Daily Star input

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