Mustafizur — no fuss, only fizz

"I have been playing international cricket only for a year now. Overall, it is not even six years since I began playing professionally. If there is any problem that I face, I look up to the seniors. I don’t mind listening to what others have to say," says Mustafizur Rahman.

Mustafizur Rahman of Sunrisers Hyderabad in action in the match against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League. “I am really enjoying my time here,” says the Bangladesh seamer.   -  K. V. S. GIRI

He is a man of few words. There are no signs of complexities in him. A bowler who took the cricketing world by surprise, having rattled the touring Indian team in the One-Day Internationals with his slow off-cutters, the innocence of his early days is still conspicuous.

Playing in his first season in the Indian Premier League, Mustafizur Rahman spoke to Sportstar on his experiences with Sunrisers Hyderabad.

“The weather is same as it is back home, maybe it is slightly hotter here. I stay in my hotel room most of the time; I only step out to play and practise. I spend most of the time with my team-mates and I am really enjoying my time here,” said the Bangladesh fast bowler.

Being one of the youngest players in the side, it is evident that Mustafizur gets special attention. After all, the Bangladesh bowling coach, Heath Streak, had also expressed the need to handle Mustafizur with care.

 

“I am the youngest in the team, so everyone takes care of me as a little brother, which really makes me feel special. The coaches guide me not only in cricketing matters but on how to be a better cricketer and a sportsperson,” he said.

Following his impressive performances in the limited-overs formats, Mustafizur earned the chance to play in the Bangladesh Premier League, Pakistan Super League and the Indian Premier League in a very short time. However, when asked to compare the different leagues, Mustafizur refused to do so.

“The IPL is watched by a lot more people and is very popular. BPL is famous in Bangladesh. That’s the major difference. Talking about cricket, the way I have played my first match there, I have played here too. I don’t analyse much about the difference. We should concentrate on the good things,” he said.

When asked about his experience of sharing the dressing room with players such as David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan, Ashish Nehra and Kane Williamson, and to have mentors like V. V. S. Laxman, Tom Moody and Muttiah Muralitharan, Mustafizur meekly replied: “This is the first time I am playing here. I really feel good.”

For someone who has spent most of his life in Bangladesh and had the opportunity to venture beyond its shores only in recent times, playing in the IPL should have posed some problems. However, Mustafizur insisted that he never had any problem in communicating with his team-mates, especially the overseas players and management of Sunrisers Hyderabad. “I do understand English a little bit. Besides, we also have a foreign coach back home. There are not much problems interacting with the overseas players. If I do not understand, I go and discuss with the coach again. I am not facing any problem. Everything is good,” he said.

Sunrisers Hyderabad has preferred Mustafizur to Trent Boult in the playing XI in all of its matches played so far.

“I feel good, and I should. After all, I am getting a chance to play,” he said.

Speaking of Streak’s contribution in his success, Mustafizur said: “He motivated me to play well. He said, ‘You have got the chance to play international cricket, work hard and play well. Use your merit and shine’. He spoke in his own way; I am only telling you in my language whatever he said.”

Mustafizur has so far played only 15 first-class matches, including two Tests against South Africa. For young cricketers growing up in countries like India, England and Australia, they would have to play numerous first-class domestic matches before getting an opportunity to don the whites. Even though it comes across as a huge honour for the Bangladesh youngster to have been able to play Test cricket so early in his career, one has to take into consideration the lack of first-class domestic cricket in Bangladesh, which may have resulted in the team’s poor run in the longest format. However, according to Mustafizur, it does not matter — what matters are the opportunities he gets to play cricket.

“We have the National Cricket League that helps me prepare for Tests. That is really helpful,” he said.

There is no ambiguity in what he feels or says. If Mustafizur does not understand something, he just says so in Bengali, “I don’t know what to reply.”

Mustafizur is like a boy just out of his teens; one enjoying his early days in international cricket.

“I have been playing international cricket only for a year now. Overall, it is not even six years since I began playing professionally. If there is any problem that I face, I look up to the seniors. I don’t mind listening to what others have to say,” he said.

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