Bangladesh v India, 1st ODI, Mirpur June 19, 2015

Mustafizur, slow death from Satkhira

Mustafizur Rahman might be barely audible even with three microphones, but his bowling made a loud statement

The Bangladesh players celebrated Mustafizur Rahman's five wickets by jumping on him, tugging at his cheeks and even kissing him © AFP

The Bangladesh players couldn't quite figure out what to do with Mustafizur Rahman after each of his five wickets. They surrounded him a couple of times, tried to lift him, jump on his shoulders, and someone even tugged at his cheeks. Right at the end when Bangladesh had completed the 79-run win, captain Mashrafe Mortaza kissed him all over his face.

All Mustafizur could do was smile as he shyly tried to avoid the attention. At the presentation, the debutant could hardly be heard as nerves got the better of him. The same happened at the press conference where he could barely tell the story of his formative years in cricket.

Mustafizur's story is similar to those of many international cricketers from the subcontinent who come from nondescript areas far removed from the big cities but just as passionate about cricket as mainstream centres. After starting off as a batsman while playing with the tennis ball in his locality, he took on board the advice to start bowling fast. His family took his talent seriously, employing one of the elder brothers to ferry him to and from cricket practice. His elder brother Mokhlesur Rahman would take him to training 40 kilometre from his house to Satkhira town - 230 km southwest of capital Dhaka - on his bike every morning in the winter.

"I didn't even know Satkhira properly when my brother used to take me there every morning at seven," Mustafizur said. "The first person who came to my mind [after the win tonight] was him."

He soon caught the eye of the scouts in Satkhira who picked him in under-17 tournaments before he was called up to a pace-bowling camp in Dhaka. Once he began using the facilities at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur regularly and slowly became a known face, he was asked to bowl in the Under-19 nets. Soon he bowled a few times in the Bangladesh nets before he became a regular Bangladesh U-19 player, also playing in the 2014 World Cup, where he took nine wickets in six matches.

Chief selector Faruque Ahmed was impressed by him and picked him for Bangladesh A's tour to the West Indies last year. Khulna Division then gave him a first-class debut in the 2013-14 domestic season and he became a regular there as well, picking up 26 wickets in first-class cricket in the 2014-15 season. His tally was second only to Mohammad Shahid's, but his average of 18.03 was the best among the four pacers who took 20 or more wickets.

Many would have thought Mustafizur's call-up to the Bangladesh T20 side for the one-off game against Pakistan was premature but Mashrafe said it was a risk worth taking in the shortest format. However, after he finished with figures of 2 for 20 in four overs, including the wickets of Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez, the team management knew they wanted Mustafizur for the ODIs against India.

When asked how he achieved control over his slower balls that deceived Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, Mustafizur provided a simple answer.

"One day in the U-19 nets [Anamul Haque] Bijoy bhai asked me if I could bowl him a slower cutter," Mustafizur said, barely audible despite three microphones in front of him. "I tried it for the first time and I got him out. That's when I started bowling that delivery."

However, if you went by the first ball he bowled in his ODI career, you wouldn't have thought this 19-year old could be shy. As the ball took Rohit's inside edge, Mustafizur was the first to go up in a big appeal for lbw but was turned down. His first spell ended with Rohit flicking him for a six and then picking up two more boundaries.

Taskin Ahmed looked like the only effective pace bowler out of the four, picking up the crucial wickets of Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, but the debutant soon joined him. Mashrafe brought back Mustafizur for his second spell in the 21st over, one that may turn out be a turning point in his life. Rohit had read him well until then, but this time Mustafizur drew him into a leg-side shot that took the leading edge. Mashrafe was beside himself with joy: he later revealed it was always his plan to use Mustafizur's variation against India. Rahane, too, was foxed in Mustafizur's next over, playing too early to a slower one.

The cutter wasn't the only thing in India's path: Mustafizur himself ticked off their batsmen by coming in their way when they took runs. A second collision resulted in his going off the field, a wake-up call that he was in the big league now. Yet another wake-up call followed when Raina welcomed him back with an inside-out six first ball.

Three balls later the deceptive offcutter fooled Raina, taking the inside edge and clattering into the stumps. Ashwin fell next ball to another slower delivery that took the outside edge before Jadeja hit one down long-on's throat to give Mustafizur his fifth wicket.

At the end of it all - the match, the Man-of-the-Match award, the press conference - someone asked Mustafizur whether any of this was believable. He smiled, nodded his head, looked downwards and said, "Yeah, it all feels great."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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