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Bangladesh cricket captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza (L) congratulates his teammate Mustafizur Rahman (2nd L) after winning the first one day international (ODI) cricket match between Bangladesh and India at The Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka on June 18, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MUNIR UZ ZAMAN (Photo credit should read MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Thank you, Mustafizur!

Dinesh Gopalakrishnan

I begin to write this more on a philosophical level, because anyone who wishes to be philosophical needs to be impacted by something so severe or magnificent by nature that it makes her/him sit down, absorb, take note of the incident’s impact and appreciate all aspects which would otherwise go unnoticed.

The culmination of a World Cup usually means some big heads roll and some teams set out to venture on a new path, like England are currently. And this inevitably means the world gets to see fresh talent. The resurgence of the England limited-overs team in the past month is indeed great for the game. But something even more spectacular happened; Bangladesh, smarting from its defeat at the hands of India in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final, decided to prove they can consistently challenge and compete with the ‘top’ teams. I firmly believe that for a long time Bangladesh have underachieved and have erred a lot more than a team with so much talent should. While their recent whitewash of Pakistan at home did not draw much international attention, it did raise their hopes for the India series.

And then this lanky kid turned up on the back of a fairly good Twenty20 outing against Pakistan and did the unthinkable. Here was a boy with no fear and absolute control – one can argue about the mind but not about the wrist – who made the world look up. He targeted the stumps 22 yards away with simple use of pace and guile, in a day and age when cricket has metamorphosed into more of a ‘catering to the gallery’ sort of sport than adhering to the romance that is derived by hearing the ball hit the ‘middle’ of the bat.

Cricket needs Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to do well consistently. And this Bangladesh side looks more determined than any other in the past. It was the perfect time for someone like Mustafizur to enter the stage and express himself, primarily because this team looks out for one another and believes in collective responsibility. There will be days when Mustafizur will be smashed but by the looks of it, his confidence would not be dented by his own team’s distrust in him. Watching him in the first two matches against India you almost sense he has a license to express himself, reminiscent of Inzamam-ul-Haq and Wasim Akram under Imran Khan and Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana under Arjuna Ranatunga.

Mustafizur – I seriously like the zing to his name – refreshes the spectator in many ways. A fast bowler creating havoc is not so common from Bangladesh of all places: didn’t they have an all left-arm spin bowling attack once? Mustafizur keeps the basics right by keeping the line and length uncomplicated. He is in the thick of action all the time and also manages to get under the skin of the much-fancied opponents. In the two ODIs he’s played, he reminded us that it’s the bowlers who actually win you the match.

But more importantly, what Mustafizur has managed to do is create an aura, albeit momentarily – curses the short boundaries and docile pitches these days – that the hardworking, less-rewarded and unfairly disregarded participant in the game, the bowler, can also be the boss at times. And regardless of what life has in store for him, Mustafizur and Bangladesh needs to rightfully be thanked by the average cricket romantic.

Dinesh Gopalakrishnan is a 24-year old cricket romantic from Pune who grew up following cricket in the 1990s. From a Sachin fan to an India supporter to a cricket lover is how he would define his journey with cricket.

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