When the India batsmen were foxed by Mustafizur Rahman in the first two one-day internationals, experts felt it was due to the surprise element a newcomer brings. The real test would be in the third game, a point made by Ravichandran Ashwin on the eve of the final tie.
India's video analyst was put on overtime, the think tank got its brains together and a game plan was worked out to neutralise the Bangladesh pacer's slower variations. It was a litmus test.
Dhoni and Co. were to wait for the ball to break and play late. Also, to avoid getting caught playing away from the body, they were to shuffle across the off-stump and play closer. The plan succeeded to a certain extent. India managed their first 300-plus total of the series.
That Rahman still pocketed the wickets of Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina, both specialist batsmen, showed there is something more to the youngster's bowling that caught the India batsmen by surprise.
There are several examples of new variations being introduced with initial success before batsmen figure them out. On the other hand, genuinely good balls will always be tough to tackle, such as reverse swing, which gives batsmen sleepless nights.
There is genuine excitement among the pace tribe about Rahman's main weapon - the slower ball, described as an off-cutter. It is effective because he is delivering it differently than a normal off-cutter.
Sarfaraz Nawaz, a crafty Pakistan bowler, who created similar excitement in the 70s with his exhibition of reverse swing, told HT, "Mustafizur is exciting to watch because of the four different types of variations he has. He is deceptive and bowls the left-arm leg-break and off-break with good control. The India batsmen couldn't pick him up because he bowls his variations with the same action and arm speed."
Sarfaraz has no doubt that soon other bowlers will add it to their arsenal. "Other bowlers will study and pick up the deliveries which suit them," said the Pakistan great. Already, Rahman's bowling partner, Rubel Hossain, was seen bowling them in the third game.
Of the 13 wickets he claimed in three games, more than half were claimed with the slower ones. Mumbai bowling coach, Omkar Salvi, a 'B license' coach, said Rahman's main weapon was the work of his wrist. "Bowlers roll their fingers for the regular off-break slower variation (but) Mustafizur is rolling his wrist. Also, his grip is different. He holds the ball inside his palm, unlike the regular grip of having a window (between the ball and the palm)," said Salvi.
In this age of T20 cricket, where batsmen are experimenting with outrageous shots, the bowlers, under increasing pressure, will be thankful to Mustafizur for the new weapon.