Eight months ago in June 2015, Bangladesh seamer Mustafizur Rahman had emerged as a sensation against India. He surprised everyone in the Indian batting line-up and ended up picking 13 wickets in his first three ODIs. On that tour, Indian batsmen had admitted that they had problems picking Mustafizur’s leg-cutter, a delivery that happened to be a thorn in India’s flesh.
After that series, Bangladesh played India again on Wednesday at the Asia Cup T20 and the Indians showed no mercy or caution in dealing with Mustafizur’s leg-cutter.
While Bangladesh would have expected wickets from Mustafizur, the youngster was milked for 40 runs without a wicket. It was Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya who punished his slower ones.
That certainly hurt Bangladesh in the game as it seemed India had cracked the code to deal with Mustafizur.
Off-late, Mustafizur has had a lot of success in international cricket owing to his accuracy, control and the dangerous leg-cutter. But at the same time, he has played majority of his cricket in Bangladesh on pitches that were rough and scuffed up. Mustafizur needs help from the track to become dangerous with his cutters.
Let’s go back to India’s tour of Bangladesh. The pitches on offer then were dry and scuffed up. A uni-dimensional bowler that he is, Mustafizur caught the Indians by surprise and his leg-cutters gave the Indians a headache. No batsmen had an answer to his deliveries that were bowled from wide of the crease and turned sharply away from the batsmen.
Mustafizur had become a mystery then. Dew is a major factor that gives bowlers a tough time in Bangladesh due to excessive humidity but Mustafizur was assisted by rough surfaces that held up his cutters.
On Wednesday at Mirpur, the pitch had a lot of grass on it and didn’t break. No doubt, Mustafizur started off with a tight over against Virat Kohli but because of his diagonal angle, none of the deliveries could crash into his stumps. His pitch map looked like a diagonal line was moving across the pitch. And like all unusual bowlers, he had been sorted by the Indian batsmen, enabling them to pre-plan against Mustafizur.
For instance, Rohit Sharma’s pull-flick that went high up in the air and just about cleared the fence for a six showed he knew what was expected.
Actually, both Rohit and Pandya batted with open stance as they knew Mustafizur could not aim the stumps or bowl into them. This stance helped both the batsmen to tonk Mustafizur anywhere in the field. Pandya flashed hard at his outside-the-off deliveries over point and third-man and made space to tonk him over midwicket for a maximum.
Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Mortaza said during the post match presentation that the bowlers were mixing it up nicely but nothing was working for them. “We bowled a lot of slower ones later and the ball was not gripping,” said Mortaza. Dew again made it difficult for the bowlers but nothing worked in favour of Bangladesh.
Other than Mustafizur, no bowler is known to pick wickets on slower deliveries. But in Mustafizur’s case, both dew and a green pitch ruined his chances. Unlike Ashish Nehra or Zaheer Khan, Mustafizur comes with a handicap as he can’t bring the ball back into a right hander.
Mustafizur, who recently caught Sunrisers Hyderabad’s eye in the IPL auction and went for Rs1.4 cr in the IPL-9 auction, however has failed to switch to plan ‘B’ and that could be exploited very easily.