Rajasthan Royals, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians in IPL, Lahore Qalandars in PSL and Sussex in England’s NatWest T20 Blast- Mustafiz’s CV is rich in terms of participation in foreign T20 leagues. Second only to Shakib Al Hasan among the Bangladeshi players.
Mustafiz has the experience of playing in many franchise leagues overseas, but how much has his experiences helped Bangladesh cricket? It’s not just about how much it has improved his performances for the team.
Has this left-arm pacer shared experiences like playing in foreign leagues, being in the same dressingroom with foreign cricketers and bowling against T20 power hitters, with his national team teammates? Why does the Bangladesh team often get to a situation from where it has to once again start from zero in T20s? What is the reason behind Bangladesh’s poor performances in T20s according to Mustafiz?
Mustafiz was asked this question at the lobby of Marriott Hotel, where the Bangladesh team is staying in Guyana, on Tuesday. Mustafiz is a man of few words and goes further into his shell in official settings. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his own cricketing analysis. Contrarily, he answered the question with a proper explanation.
“Our main problem is mindset. Even if they don’t score any runs in seven-eight balls, batsmen from other teams bounce back, they keep attacking. In case of bowlers, after bowling one or two bad balls, they recover very quickly. I feel that we fall behind in this aspect. We fall apart very easily and can’t recover from a bad situation quickly,” Mustafiz told Prothom Alo after a meeting with the coaches where all bowlers of the team were present.
Mustafiz reminds his teammates whenever he gets an opportunity that in T20s latching into a rhythm is key both on the field and mindset, “I say what to do and what not to do to whoever when the opportunity comes. I share my understanding with them.”
T20 is a game of speed. Batting, bowling, fielding – everything needs to be swift. Thinking also needs to be sharp. Bangladeshi cricketers still have a lot learn in terms tactics in T20s and also have a lot of room for improvements. But the aspect Mustafiz pointed at is probably the most crucial one.
How much has Mustafiz’s experience of playing franchise leagues impacted Bangladesh’s scorecard, that can also be discussed. Shakib’s performances speak for themselves. It is evident how experiences of playing in leagues like IPL-CPL has helped Shakib deliver for the national team.
After a few bad games, he was Bangladesh’s best batsman against West Indies in the first two T20s. In comparison, how much has the Bangladesh team benefited from Mustafiz’s franchise league experiences?
It won’t be right to say the team has received no benefits. After underwhelming performances in the last T20 World Cup, Mustafiz showed good control over his bowling in the home series against Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although he didn’t capture many wickets but bowlers at the other end of the pitch have benefited from his economic bowling.
Mustafiz has a very simple explanation behind the up and down nature of his bowling performances, “Wickets in Asia and in other places are different. Wickets outside of Asia are better for batting. In Asia, teams struggle to score 150, but outside of Asia even 200 isn’t a safe total. This is maybe a reason why my economy rate has increased.”
But Mustafiz has a lot of faith in his own bowling. He also doesn’t completely agree with the people who say that he has lost his earlier edge with the ball. But yes, he claimed to still try to keep improving.
“After my surgery, my performances were not that good for 1-1.5 years. But after that… there is no end to improvement. You can learn every day. I am also trying to improve further… how to become like the other top bowlers in the world. Improving my fitness, listening to suggestions from coaches- I’m doing all of these things.”
Mustafiz hasn’t had a lot of opportunity to work with national team’s bowling coach Allan Donald. But he has liked the plans and suggestions of the South African legend, “We only had two sessions (with Donald) with the white ball, specifically for T20s. We worked on ODI bowling in South Africa. It hasn’t been very long since he arrived. But I like his plans.”
Mustafiz is now focusing more on how he could bowl better outside of Asia. But that’s the long term goal, as for now, Mustafiz and the entire Bangladesh team want to win the final T20 which will take place at the Providence Stadium, Guyana on Thursday and draw the series.
The coaching staff sat with the bowlers in the team hotel on Tuesday to explain what they have to do. When asked what was discussed in the meeting, Mustafiz gave a one-line reply, “We discussed about how we could do better in the bowling department.”
In just one line, Mustafiz summarised the formula to improve in T20s. There is no alternative to ‘doing better’.
*This report appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy