Very often, the perception around Bangladesh’s wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim is a negative one - with the large world judging him solely based - on his celebrations, reactions in the field. Away from the public perception, there stands a wicketkeeper-batsman maintaining his batting consistency.
The 2016 World T20, 2017-18 Nidahas Tri-series and 2020-21 Bangabandhu T20 Cup have something in common - Mushfiqur Rahim’s celebrations and anger. In all the three tournaments, the wicketkeeper-batsman has lost his temper, thrown up a fit and raged at the wrong time. Largely that has defined Rahim to the social media world, the world of trolls, who seemingly revisit the haunted past to trigger the narrative around the Bangladesh batsman.
But a glance at the actual numbers that matter will paint you a different tale - the 34-year-old from Bogura - stands as Bangladesh’s consistent performer amidst the tainted picture painted. In two of the above tournaments, he was amongst the top run-scorers and whenever Bangladesh have called for his need, he has responded.
So when the talk of Bangladesh dropping him as a wicketkeeper emerged, it was met with a sigh and a telling statement from the new skipper, Tamim Iqbal. Iqbal, prior to the series against Sri Lanka, placed his full trust in the wicketkeeper, stating, "I have complete trust in him and give him my full support. I think he should continue to keep wickets for Bangladesh."
That’s where the numbers tell you the story, the one that doesn’t meet the social-media narrative that surrounds. Since the start of January 1, 2019 - amongst the middle-order batsmen (No.4 and No.5), Rahim stands tall as the third-best in the world, behind Ross Taylor and Eoin Morgan. In the two year span, the Bangladesh batsman has piled 943 runs, often being handed the job of resurrection for his side, at an average of 47.15.
He hasn’t just mended the side, he has transformed the middle-order for the Asian country. In fact, he has also bodied the perfect prototype for a perfect anchor, who could lead the side out of deep waters. On Tuesday, it was yet another such situation for him, his side bent and broken, at 15-2, in the troubled territory, especially considering that the two lost wickets were of Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan.
They needed a repeat from the man, who was responsible for their victory in the first ODI - Rahim. He threaded through trouble carefully, withdrawing several risky shots with ease and then steered the loose deliveries to the boundary, like he was an artist. The precarious situation not only saw the best of him but the best of what he had to bring on to the table - resurrection, something that he had done day in and day out.
Dushmantha Chameera got the ball to talk, Lakshan Sandakan, turned it, either way, to cause more confusion, with Wanindu Hasaranga still waiting in the ranks. And amidst all this confusion, there stood Rahim, who looked like a larger-than-life figure for the hosts. It was an opportunity for Bangladesh, not just to rank up more points for ODI World Cup qualification but to leave an impression, make a stellar statement. They had never beaten Sri Lanka before, in a bilateral series and it was their prime opportunity to do it, Rahim with the past experience of having the wounds of loss. Bangladesh had slipped as they had on several occasions, in New Zealand. Rahim had the most torrid time of his career, 78 runs, at an average of 26, certainly far away from his calibre.
But just before that, right from the 2019 World Cup, the wicketkeeper-batsman averages 66.57, with him leading the batting charts for the hosts in wins over Sri Lanka - both home and away, Zimbabwe and West Indies in the last two years. In Bangladesh’s last five wins at home, the wicketkeeper has been an integral part of the playing XI, with his batting display. So put under the pressure, it was always going to be him - destiny’s child.
In the first ODI, he came at such a precious stage, at 43/2 and transformed the ordinary total into a match-winning one, scoring an 87-ball 84. But that was just an 84, he left the others with a lot of tasks. In the second ODI, there was none of that, he never gave the opposition an opportunity to dismiss him, even though the wickets tumbled around him. He was the last one to exit the scene, having put a partnership with every batsman on the list, to a 127-ball 125, which really made the difference for the hosts, against Sri Lanka.
"My main target was to bat for 50 overs, regardless of how much runs we get in the end," Rahim said in the post-match.
Since the start of 2019, Rahim has scored 703 runs in winning causes for the Tigers, at a strike rate of 96.83, with one century and six fifties. His experience was invaluable, especially the read of the game, considering how Bangladesh found themselves in both games, with and without him. There is a stark contrast in their approach, without him, much like a headless version of a poultry house. He wasn’t even content with his 125, stating that he wants to improve it further, showing why he stands for consistency.
"I felt 246 was a fighting score on this wicket. The more important thing was that I was mentally prepared to switch on and switch off due to the weather. I am happy with the innings, but we missed out on the last eleven balls, and in a close contest, those 10-20 runs becomes crucial for us. I want to improve my batting more."
It is an understatement that Mushfiqur Rahim is one of Asia’s best, perhaps even Asia’s best wicket-keeper batsmen in the 50-over format. But all through the road, it was never a surprise that he was in the top-five run-scorers in the ODIs since 26 May 2016, where he has scored 1371 runs, averaging 57.12, all while resurrecting the team out of troubled water in wins for the country. Not only has he battled perceptions of him on social media, but he has also stood his ground in maintaining consistency, right up there amongst the world’s best.