Courier Asks: End of the road for Mushfiqur?

Thursday, October 12th, 2017


The Bangladesh cricket team’s abject performance in the 2-Test series that concluded against South Africa this week will have been enough to bring even the most die-hard optimists among Tigers fans crashing down cruelly to earth, following the high of the drawn Test series against Australia at home. What really rankled about how the team played away from home though was the sheer nothingness of it. It’s one thing to be outclassed by a superior team in unfamiliar conditions. But no matter how hard you look, there wasn’t a single positive that Bangladesh cricket could derive from this particular series. And that takes something.


Further adding to their woes is the unseemly battle of words that has ensued between board president Nazmul Hasan and Test captain Mushfiqur Rahim, who over the last one month has hinted at undue influences from outside the team set-up. Given the BCB president’s knack for hogging the limelight, and his penchant for commenting on the players’ performances and even their personal lives, it wasn’t hard to relate this to the outsized influence he very visibly wields. But even so, the plight that Mushfiqur, Bangladesh’s most successful Test captain under whom the side has registered 7 of its 10 Test wins, let on to was difficult to digest.


In comments after close of play on day one of the second Test at Bloemfontein, Mushfiqur surprised everyone by saying that his decision to spend time fielding in the deep as Bangladesh were sent on a leather hunt was dictated by the team management and the coaches, who felt that he was not a good fielder.  Things were probably made worse by the fact that all the time, he knew how he was probably being skewered by all-and-sundry for winning the toss and inviting his opponents to bat first on a featherbed. For the second Test running.


Anyone familiar with the game knows that more than any other decision, what to do on winning the toss is a collective decision. It is often even made on the eve of a match. Unless an overbearing captain with some uncommon insight is in the fray, most likely the entire team knows, as the skipper goes out to the middle with his counterpart for the coin toss, which set of kit they’ll need first up if he calls it right. So some bits of the criticism that ended up being squarely focused on Mushfiqur was probably unfair. But then again, a captain derives his authority from accepting that he may be subjected to this. So Mushfiqur should have taken it in his stride.


But when Nazmul Hasan weighed in, he clearly went too far, drawing comparisons with other captains in the shorter versions of the game, blaming Mushfiqur for bringing disrepute to the nation, and what not. The BCB president often tries to portray himself as a paternal figure, at times even going over the top with it. With that in mind at least, he should also have the greater capacity for exercising restraint, especially in his comments to the media.


Mushfiq, for his part, needs to grow a thicker skin (something you wouldn’t think to prescribe, after six years on the job) or put his leadership on the line – if you’re restricted from setting your own fielding position, you’ve got to resign as captain.   Truth be told, his captaincy has never quite captured the imagination, but Bangladesh aren’t exactly full of options. As the doughty, effervescent beating heart of the team, the team could gel around his refreshingly humble and down-to-earth personality. After six years though, the board may believe it’s time for a change.


Could Shakib al Hasan, possessed of a first-rate cricketing brain but dogged by charges of indiscipline or lack of commitment, be in with a shot? The management has hinted at guiding him back to leadership, recently handing him the reins for the shortest version of the game. Nazmul Hasan, while castigating Mushfiqur, also seemed to mention Bangladesh’s most accomplished cricketer’s name with a particular glow. It would make for a bewitching prospect.  Beyond him though, it is difficult to imagine who could play that leadership role, especially in the Test line up. Even discounting all the outside influence in play.

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