Don't weigh Mustafizur down with expectations - Mashrafe

Courtney Walsh watches on as Mustafizur Rahman bowls AFP

Mustafizur Rahman needs to work harder if he wants more success as batsmen have begun reading his bowling better. Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza, who made this observation, also said that Mustafizur's success early in his career was "extraordinary" and urged that he shouldn't be put under too much pressure.

"What he got in the early stage of his career was extraordinary so what is happening to him now is what is supposed to happen to any bowler," Mashrafe said before Bangladesh's departure to England for a preparatory camp ahead of their Champions Trophy campaign. "It is unbelievable that he got so many wickets in the first few games of his international career. Now he has to work hard to take wickets. Batsmen are reading him better. Every team has top-quality computer analysts who find out his strengths and weaknesses.

"Injuries have also bothered him, and he has just recovered from the latest injury few months ago. He is only 19 or 20 [21]. So with everything in consideration, he is having a tough time off late. So we also shouldn't put him under pressure. He has already proved that he is Bangladesh's future. If we can keep him relaxed by not weighing him down with expectations, he can be a wonderful asset for us in the next ten years."

After coming back from a shoulder surgery late last year, Mustafizur was out of sorts in New Zealand and was dropped for the Hyderabad Test in India to allow him more time to recuperate. He bowled well in patches in Sri Lanka, especially in the Test series, but wasn't at his best in the two completed ODIs and the first T20I.

In the second T20I against Sri Lanka, however, he took 4 for 21 but was expensive in his only appearance for Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2017, conceding 34 runs in 2.4 overs. He has been benched since then, which has raised concerns over his form and mental state.

Mustafizur was scheduled to join the team on Tuesday but will now do so on May 4. Despite his recent patchy form, he remains an important cog in Bangladesh's pursuit of a strong result in the Champions Trophy. Mashrafe said that the tournament will be a difficult one for the team, as they are placed in the same group as hosts England, Australia and New Zealand.

He said that the preparatory camp in Sussex does not guarantee success but will give the players a better understanding of local pitches and overhead conditions.

"Realistically, it is going to be a difficult tour," Mashrafe said. "The Champions Trophy won't be easy when you look at our opposition. We have defeated England in that condition. We beat Australia in Cardiff once and, although these are history, I think it is still possible. A lot will depend on how we prepare our mentality.

"The camp will give us an inkling about the pitches. Weather conditions change quickly in the early part of the English summer. We had a good World Cup after an early camp in Australia in 2015 but the same didn't pan out in 2016 when we prepared for the New Zealand tour."

One area Mashrafe is concerned about is the team's fatigue towards the end of a long tour. Given that the Champions Trophy falls in the latter half of their tour, the team will have to devise ways to avoid falling into that mental hole.

"This is not the first time we are on such a long tour," Mashrafe said. "But we do have that problem of becoming fatigued at the end of such tours. History tells us that we have a really bad session after a good one in the latter part of a tour.

"Maybe in Australia [during the World Cup] we didn't feel too bad as we were always in the hunt. Winning in the early stage could help us fight fatigue, which we can start in Ireland. It is important to keep everyone together, in our group of 17-18 players, especially those who won't go through a good time in the early stages. Keeping them like a family."

Bangladesh will leave for the Sussex camp on April 26. Their tri-nation series, against Ireland and New Zealand, will be played between May 12 and 24, after which they will return to London for the final part of their tour.