Mustafizur Rahman doesn't say much. Not about himself, or his bowling, the most exciting thing about him. And he likes to keep to himself.
The evening before the game against India, he was a worried man. He was having dinner with some of his team-mates and friends, and couldn't find his phone, which, after having gone from hand to hand under the table, had gone into someone's pocket. The prank lasted for about 45 minutes. All this while, the chatter around the table revolved around Mustafizur. From the kind of fish he likes to farm back home in Satkhira to the best cure for a headache. Mustafizur didn't really bother anyone at the table, but he kept the search for the phone on.
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Much of what is known about Mustafizur was there at that restaurant table. When he talks cricket, it is clear that he judges batsmen well, but he is as interested in fish farming and agriculture and speaks passionately when those subjects crop up. In fact, the phone went missing when he was speaking rather excitedly about how ducks and some varieties of fish can co-exist in the same pond. He was distracted.
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He figured out who had the phone when leaving the restaurant. There were some smirks. Mustafizur issued mock threats for the alleged perpetrators, and it became a big laugh. His evening had ended with nothing to worry about. Go to sleep, wake up, and then try to stop some of the best batsmen in the world from going berserk. Far from a simple task, even though there is a scarcely-believable simplicity about Mustafizur.
Captain Mashrafe Mortaza goes to great lengths to plan Mustafizur's spells: a few overs up front and a couple in the middle, before leaving him to bowl at least four overs at the death. He loves to wrap his fingers around the older ball, gripping it almost like a left-arm spinner, and letting it rip from behind his shoulder.
In this game against India, his cutter accounted for Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya in the 39th over. Kohli looked like he expected the cutter to be a quicker bouncer. Pandya poked at a wider cutter, which was gobbled up by the wide slip. Dinesh Karthik was undone by a slower bouncer after that, before MS Dhoni and Mohammed Shami fell to give Mustafizur his first five-wicket haul since November 2015.
Mustafizur's effectiveness in the last ten overs is widely known, particularly since his exploits for Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2016 when he helped them win the trophy. His subtle changes of pace and use of the slower bouncer made him a dangerous bowler to deal with then. He needed a bit of time to return to his best after a shoulder injury in 2016, and he hasn't been the same bowler with the new ball since.
On Tuesday, his five-wicket haul drove home the point that when he has his tail up, Bangladesh look a different bowling unit. Against India, there was a danger that they might end up conceding another 350-plus total. Mustafizur put a stop to that with his old-ball show, and left people wondering what would have happened had he been as effective with the new ball.
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But, from Bangladesh's point of view, it has to be more than just Mustafizur, the other pace bowlers must also come forward. Mustafizur works best when batsmen are looking for big hits and he can fox them with his variations. He can also string together dot balls at key moments in the game.
His 11-wicket haul in his first two ODIs in 2015 took India by surprise, and they lost 2-1. Then, too, his first breakthrough spell came late in the game. In the Nidahas Trophy final last year, he kept Bangladesh going till Karthik took apart Rubel Hossain in the penultimate over.
Two weeks ago in Taunton, his two-wicket over derailed West Indies. He was getting hit - "a hell of a beating" in his words - but against the run of play, he removed Shimron Hetmyer and Andre Russell. Not many bowlers can pull that off, at least the second part, so nonchalantly. The crowd went crazy, and the West Indian shoulders dropped. Mustafizur just walked up to his team-mates and nodded at them.
It was like he was asking for his phone back. No fuss. Everything is done quietly, without anyone noticing much, because what's the point of being dramatic? Especially if your bowling can cause so much drama.