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Feature

Bowler to all-round match-winner - Mehidy Hasan Miraz comes of age

Self-belief and clear thinking have been constant themes in his journey to becoming Bangladesh's man of the moment

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
09-Dec-2022
For Bangladesh to beat India, they have almost always needed a special performance. Mashrafe Mortaza showed the way in 2004 and 2007. Mustafizur Rahman's five-for and six-for did the job in 2015. And this time, Mehidy Hasan Miraz's batting has taken India by surprise.
Mehidy's twin miracles, which won Bangladesh the ODI series with a game to spare, were the product of a strong belief system. For several years, he had shown only glimpses of being an allrounder, until this series when his batting took a giant leap. The 25-year-old has presented himself as the answer to Bangladesh's age-old problem of finding a good finisher who is not just a big-hitter but one who knows exactly when to press the accelerator. He also seems to have usurped Mahmudullah's decade-old role as the team's crisis man.
From playing a small but vital role in Bangladesh's famous Test win against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui, to bringing the team back from the dead against Afghanistan with bat and against South Africa with ball, to publicly standing up to a BPL team official, the year 2022 has certainly been a career-defining one for Mehidy. In seasons gone by, even during his time as the Under-19 captain, he was considered mature beyond his years, but now he seems to be really coming of age.

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Mehidy was having a good year with bat and ball even before he opened up in a big way this past week against India. His first innings beggared belief, taking Bangladesh home by adding 51 runs for the last wicket. This team doesn't often win from such positions against top sides, but here was Mehidy, playing uppercuts, scoops and lap sweeps against fast bowlers to get those runs.
What he did in the next game was even more astounding. His maiden ODI century, while batting at No. 8, helped Bangladesh from 69 for 6 to 271 for 7, eventually resulting in the win that gave them the series.
After the first game, Mehidy said he truly believed that they could chase down 186 despite being 136 for 9. He said if he had thought Bangladesh wouldn't be able to do it, he wouldn't have been able to pull off the win. It sounds like a typical sports cliché, but Mehidy explained after the second game what exactly his belief system is.
"You can keep saying 'I believe' repeatedly but it wouldn't mean anything until you put it into a process," he said. "Firstly, you need clear information. I couldn't have been successful as a batter if I remained confused in the middle. I had clear information in my mind.
"Secondly, you need a strong reference point. For me, it was winning the first ODI. I could imagine what I wanted to do in the future. I could visualise how I wanted to play. This is how you reach that sort of belief system. You can't just psyche yourself into believing something. You must have the process in place to get to your goal."
Out in the middle, pulling all this together must be a tough ask but Mehidy has fully bought into this mental process. He has thought this through. His rise as a batter isn't just a matter of two innings over four days, though. Unlike his bowling, his batting has needed many years of nurturing, and while it has been a slow process, it has now finally showing results.

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For all the criticism the Bangladesh team management takes almost on a daily basis, it deserves a lot of the credit for Mehidy's upswing as a batter. They tried him as an opener briefly in the run-up to this year's T20 World Cup. As preparation, Mehidy got important batting practice against the new ball. He eventually didn't open in the World Cup but he says his confidence perhaps stems from that period of being given extra responsibility as a batter.
"I have tried to develop myself day by day. My batting didn't improve in one day. It improved a little every day, and it has come to this point"
"It really helped me batting against the new ball, facing the fast bowlers. I did it in the UAE and New Zealand. It certainly helped me that I was being prepared to open the innings. The team management's trust in me really motivated me. I told myself that I certainly can bat."
When a certain amount of trust is placed in a player, as per Mehidy, it has a knock-on effect on all aspects of the player's game.
"I started my career as a bowler. If the team management has confidence in a player, then that individual too will have the motivation to improve. When I entered the Bangladesh team, I thought I couldn't bat. Now everyone trusts my batting. I have opened the batting too. I have to pay back their trust, and it gives me more confidence."

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Mehidy's maturity was the reason the BCB had him as Bangladesh's Under-19 captain for two World Cups. He delivered in the second campaign, in 2016, getting the team to the semi-finals at home. He was named the Player-of-the-Tournament but what stood out even more was the sensitivity and practicality with which he handled the pressure and attention, from media and fans, of leading the side at a home World Cup.
In the same year, he graduated to the senior team. At the first-class level, he was impressing some big names, like Abdur Razzak, the former spinner who is now a selector. Razzak observed Mehidy was thinking about the game even during lunch and tea breaks. Mehidy himself said he likes picking the brains of the best coaches in the country.
"Those who have seen me closely know that I always take bowling tips from Sohel [Islam] sir," he says. "I have a good relationship with our current spin-bowling coach [Rangana Herath] but I also speak to Sohel sir regularly. I have played a lot of cricket under Babul [Mizanur Rahman] sir since my age-group days. He recently took me in the BCL [Bangladesh's zone-based first-class competition] team, and he always encourages me to bat well. The local coaches have raised us. They deserve all the credit."

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At the start of his senior career, Mehidy never thought like a batter, but through the years of scoring gritty Test runs, the confidence quietly grew within him.
"At the start of my career, I used to bat late down the order, so I mentally prepared myself as a bowler only. I wasn't getting opportunities with the bat, and I wasn't a good batter too. Now I feel a lot more complete as a player.
"I have adjusted myself in international cricket in these six years. I have tried to develop myself day by day. My batting didn't improve in one day. It improved a little every day, and it has come to this point."
Within the team too, Mehidy is known to be a fountain of confidence. Tamim told the story earlier this year of how, when Bangladesh were in trouble during the first ODI against South Africa, Mehidy kept telling him to give him a couple of overs. "I can turn it around, just give me the ball," Mehidy apparently told Tamim. He went on to take four wickets, not only leaving a mark on the game but also on Tamim, who lauded his self-belief.

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Mehidy said after the second ODI against India that these were "some of the best moments of my career".
"Both were difficult situations," he said. "It was really difficult to score 51 with the last wicket in hand. Then we were 69 for 6 today. We had a great partnership, so none of these performances can be counted out. Both are special for me."
He was then asked if the 19-wicket haul against England in his debut Test series is still, in his mind, a special performance. Mehidy acknowledged it, but added that only starting well isn't the most defining part of a cricketer's career. It is how he improves that matters the most to him.
"I was so new at the time, but now I am a lot more mature. I have been playing for a few years. Both are important performances for me. I cannot forget any of them. There's no end to doing well, even after starting well. I started well, but I have improved, and I want to keep improving."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84