Extreme training helps Mushfiqur conquer extreme conditions

The biggest reason that he is able to score big - with the rest of the line-up crumbling around him - is the extreme pressure he puts himself under when he trains

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Over the next two weeks there will be more red-faced batsmen like Mushfiqur Rahim, sapped of energy, taking large gulps of water as they play long innings battling the heat of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Flat pitches, average bowling or poor fielding - nothing should take the sheen away if a batsman pulls off a coup like Mushfiqur did on Saturday.
His 144 contributed more than half of Bangladesh's total - 55.17% to be exact, which is a national record - and it rescued them from not one but two collapses. They were effectively 3 for 3 in the second over - Tamim Iqbal had retired hurt with a broken wrist - before Mushfiqur and Mohammad Mithun added 131 runs for the third wicket to steady the ship. But with none of the other batsmen and semi-allrounders offering support, Mushfiqur left at the mercy of the tail-enders - that is until Tamim's courageous re-appearance at No. 11.
His innings now stands second among Bangladesh's highest scores in ODIs, behind Tamim's 154 against Zimbabwe in 2009, and it was his 15th fifty-plus score in a winning cause.
Mushfiqur's century was a sign of his experience, solidity of technique and attacking skill. The biggest reason that he is able to play like this - with the rest of the line-up crumbling around him - is the extreme pressure he puts himself under when he trains.
In a recent interview to ESPNcricinfo, Mushfiqur explained how practicing that bit harder improves his on-field performance. "If you can finish a lap in 50 seconds instead of 60, that extra motivation in my fitness level translates into similar confidence in the skills part. I always try to prepare well ahead of time, and imagine what I may be facing," he said.
He must have imagined himself batting in the extreme heat of Dubai when he opted for additional training sessions in hot and humid Dhaka (which would seem mild compared to the UAE) over the last five weeks. He was at it even during Eid, alongside Tamim and the captain Mashrafe Mortaza, going through fitness drills and skills training.
On another day, Mushfiqur put himself through an hour-long running session in the morning and then - despite being exhausted - joined his team-mates for a match simulation in the evening. It isn't the first time he's done extra work, and it won't be the last.
Mushfiqur has based his entire international career - which began when he was 17 - on working the hardest. While there remain questions over his finishing of chases and his captaincy, he certainly has mastered pacing an ODI innings, be it a long one or a short burst, and soaking in the chaos around him.
In Dubai, he saw two early wickets and Tamim walking off with injury. Instead of counter-attacking - as he had done in similar situations in the past, with some success - Mushfiqur waited till the eighth over to look for Bangladesh's first boundary. Not until the 11th did he and Mithun start attacking, and when they did, they quickly raised the pace.
For most of their partnership, Mushfiqur let the returning Mithun do all the running, preferring to play the anchor role. Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mashrafe and Mehidy Hasan falling in a short span also meant he had to marshal the tail. Already tired and sweating profusely, Mushfiqur seemed to get an extra gear seeing a heavily-strapped Tamim walking out to bat at nine down. The three sixes and three fours in the last three overs exemplified how Mushfiqur, like Tamim, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah, has advanced as a batsman.
This progress will have to reflect once again in Bangladesh's must-win game against Afghanistan on September 20. It will be yet another physical examination but Mushfiqur certainly looks prepared for the worst chaos. He has practiced for it all.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84