23 March, 2016.
Mushfiqur Rahim — Bangladesh’s hard-hitting ‘keeper batsman — broke into uninhibited celebrations yelling loudly in the middle of the pitch at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru after scooping Hardik Pandya for a boundary on the third delivery of the final over of their decisive group encounter of the ICC World T20.
As Mushfiqur pumped his fists, the majority of the crowd stood in dismay, hands on their heads as the home team, India, were about to be eliminated from the tournament.
Mushfiqur was elated. And why he shouldn’t have been? A semi-final berth was not that far away. The equation — which read 10 runs off six deliveries at the start of the over — had been reduced to just two runs required of three deliveries. Sounds pretty easy. Doesn’t it?
On the next delivery, Pandya bowled a slower bouncer. Mushfiqur tried to go for glory in an attempt to finish it off with another boundary. This time, however, he only ended up giving away a simple catch to Shikhar Dhawan stationed at deep mid-wicket. Mushfiqur walked back to the Bangladeshi dug-out with his head down in remorse. The scoreboard read 11 runs off six deliveries with two boundaries to his name.
Two wickets followed in the next two deliveries and Bangladesh fell short of the target — and more importantly a semi-final berth — by just a solitary run.
At one moment, Bangladesh were so near. Yet by the end, they ended up so far. And all of it had boiled down just to that one moment of excitement, just to that one moment of early celebrations and emotions that got the better of an experienced player like Mushfiqur.
Cut to 10 March, 2018.
It was the second delivery of the final over of their second match of the Nidahas Trophy against Sri Lanka at Colombo. Mushfiqur sliced a full and wide delivery on the off stump from Thisara Perera up and over backward point for a boundary. Suddenly, the equation which read nine runs off six deliveries at the start of the over had reduced to three runs off four deliveries.
However, there were no premature celebrations from Mushfiqur this time. He had been in this situation once before and could not afford to let it slip once again. He knew that the job was still not completed. Next delivery, Perera bowled a good yorker on the off-stump. Mushfiqur somehow jabbed it down to long on and a fumble by the fielder there allowed Mushfiqur to take a couple of runs. The scores were tied now and Bangladesh only needed a solitary run from three deliveries. There was no chance this was going wrong this time! Yet the Bangladeshi fans might have had their hearts in their mouths at that moment.
The next delivery was a low full toss and Mushfiqur played a gentle nudge to mid-wicket and simply gathered the required solitary run. No fancy shots and no desperation to go for glory! All he wanted was to finish the job off!
The celebrations began as soon as he took the winning run. It was a bit different this time as in addition to his aggressive yelling and fist pumps, there was this special little cobra or nagin dance too. Mushfiqur remained unbeaten on 72 off just 35 deliveries and it was the best T20I innings he had ever played as he chased down the target of 215 runs almost single-handedly.
This victory ended Bangladesh’s five-match losing streak in T20Is. Moreover, it was also their second victory only in the last 15 T20Is. Incidentally, their last victory had also come against Sri Lanka at the same venue back in April 2017.
Although Mushfiqur’s Test and ODI statistics speak volumes of his abilities as a batsman, his T20I statistics don’t do justice to his abilities as a T20 batsman. An average of 19.21 and an overall strike rate of 120.08 obviously don’t say a lot about a player of his calibre. Yet these statistics also tell that he has a high failure rate in this format.
However, on Saturday, it looked like he was in the mood to set his record straight. He took up the mantle after openers Tamim Iqbal and Liton Das set it up nicely for Bangladesh. Mushfiqur walked out to bat when Bangladesh were 100/2 in the 10th over.
The way he kicked on from the very beginning with a proactive approach and his will to score off every delivery, made it hard for the Sri Lankan bowlers to put pressure on Bangladesh.
From gorgeous cover drives to fierce cuts, from simple nudges to wristy flicks — his innings was star-studded with almost every classy shot. He kept scoring at a good rate without being too flamboyant and class just seemed like oozing out of his shots.
He took calculated risks and never allowed the run rate to creep up. Although wickets kept tumbling at one end after a vital partnership of 51 runs with Soumya Sarkar at one end, Rahim maintained his calm and composure at the other end and didn’t panic at all. He was putting all the experience that he had gathered from his previous 64 T20Is to good effect here.
The turning point in the match was probably when he slammed a huge six off a full toss from Nuwan Pradeep over the deep mid-wicket boundary on the penultimate delivery of the penultimate over.
There wasn't even a rare blemish in his innings. It was completely flawless. His timing, calculations and execution all seemed to be in proper synchronization. He kept scoring at a strike rate of over 200 despite not going for too many big shots.
66.67% of his runs came against pacers at a strike rate of 200. And the remaining runs came against spinners at an even better strike rate of 218.18. That proves how well he handled both the pacers and the spinners.
His entire innings consisted of just three dot deliveries and that suggests how well he rotated the strike also apart from scoring 44 of his total 72 runs in boundaries.
In Bangladesh's last 15 T20Is, Mushfiqur has gone past the score of 20 on just two occasions — both have come in the last four matches, including the latest one against Sri Lanka. So, it seems Mushfiqur is finally getting into his zone in T20Is for Bangladesh.
The way he overcame his demons in this innings was incredible. The maturity he showed by finishing off the match in such a safe manner suggested that he had learnt from his previous mistake. His innings was very important to get Bangladesh back to winning ways. Hopefully, the victory and his knock have served the purpose for setting a positive momentum in Bangladesh’s course ahead.