26th May marks the 15th anniversary in international cricket for Mushfiqur Rahim who spoke to The Business Standard about his long journey at the international arena that included hard topics such as the toughest time of his career, the phase when he lost the test captaincy, his estranged relationship with Chandika Hathurusingha and the unprofessional attitude of the team management.
A kid of just 17 years is suddenly thrust into the ocean of International Cricket at the iconic Lord's, the mecca of cricket. It wasn't a dream start by any means, but it certainly was the start of a dream. After fighting countless battles and swimming through adversities of simultaneously keeping the wickets and batting, that kid is now the batting colossus of Bangladesh.
The teenager who made his debut on May 26, 2005, is now a grown-up of 33 years of age. The man from Bogra who has played 70 Tests, 218 ODIs, and 86 T20is is today celebrating 15 years of international cricket.
Mushfiqur spoke to The Business Standard about his long journey at the international arena that included hard topics such as the toughest time of his career, the phase when he lost the test captaincy, his estranged relationship with Chandika Hathurusingha, the unprofessional attitude of the team management and the disinclination of the team-mates.
TBS: You are under lockdown for a long time now. How are you actually feeling about this? How's the time going?
Mushfiqur Rahim: Things are all the same. There's no other option at the moment currently. The options are limited when I'm at home. Spending time with family, working on fitness, fasting during Ramadan, this is how things have gone and are continuing to go.
TBS: You've been working on your fitness regularly since the beginning of lockdown. Is it still in the same rhythm?
Mushfiq: Of course. Fasting didn't change anything. I played as well while fasting Insha Allah. This is not much for me. What I have done before, I have done the same while fasting as well. Maybe just had to reschedule. I had to sleep after eating seheri and praying during Ramadan, so I had to start a bit late on the fitness training. Instead of starting at 9-9:30 am, I started at 12-12:30 pm instead. But I did the same work. There was no difference.
TBS: You were the first to go live with Tamim Iqbal. In that episode, you said that your bats are crying. In the next live, Mahmudullah said that Mushfiq will die if it continues like this. How hard is it for you to not being able to touch the bats for so long
Mushfiq: It does feel bad. But there's nothing to do here. It's not in my control. There are some things that are not in your control, you have to accept them even if it's difficult. There's no point in thinking about it. To be honest, it was quite difficult at first. But now, there's no way. When I see the law-enforcement people, the doctors, and the nurses, the volunteers working so hard and sacrificing so much, I realize that there's value to their life.
If people like us don't stay home, they will not get the respect they deserve. Everyone should stay home thinking about them. And I hope that Allah will fix it soon, after that I can return to the field.
TBS: Many cricketers are helping the needy from their respective places. You are one of them. Is it out of a sense of responsibility as a player or a purely personal thought?
Mushfiq: No, it's not like this that we should donate only because we're players. I think since Allah has given us the ability, we all must come forward. It's a duty as a human being, not only a cricketer. And as a Muslim, it's more important. Because it can't happen that a brother or sister of yours is in crisis and you aren't helping. I think that they should be helped even if we have to sacrifice a bit.
And this is not the first time. A lot of our players have helped before and are continuing to do so. And it is not just me here, others are contributing as well in various ways. So, it's very good. Maybe I've done many things before which no one knows about. Now, it seems to me some needs to be known so that others are encouraged to see me. If my fans or well-wishers also donate 10-20 takas inspired by me, I would like it. This will help 20-30 more people.
TBS: Do you find any positive aspects even in this critical time of coronavirus, which speaks of humanity?
Mushfiq: As I said before, this is not in our hands. Allah knows when everything will be alright. On the positive side, I would say that the way the law enforcement personnel, the police, the doctors and the nurses are working to protect us, even though we do not have adequate security measures, is a big positive. I also think that the way different organizations, volunteers are helping each other at this time is also a positive aspect.
The biggest positive aspect is that we don't always get a chance to spend time with family. Even though I didn't imagine staying at home for so long, yet being at home, being able to spend time with son or wife, is also a big positive aspect.
TBS: A lot of players were working with their fitness during this lockdown. But everyone is away from the match and match practice for a long time. Will it be difficult for the cricketers to return to cricket?
Mushfiq: The problem is bound to occur. I'm watching a lot of videos, trying to do the mental works, and staying in touch with the analyst so that I can improve some of my areas. Trying to gather a lot of information and discussing the areas I can improve so that I can adapt once the play resumes. I think it will be difficult for everyone, not just me.
When we return after 2-1 months or 15-20 days due to injury, there is a slightly different environment or lower confidence level. It would be a little troublesome. But at the same time, I think when we start, maybe the first couple of weeks can be a problem. But since it's inside our system, I don't think it will take longer. I believe in 2-3 weeks we will be able to reach our goal. We will have a little deficit in match fitness. The tendency to get injured may also be a little higher. Because of the work pressure that we are accustomed to, we are not getting that for many months.
So whenever we start, if we can have a good camp or practice for two-three weeks, hopefully, we can recover at least a little bit. I have never had such a big gap in my cricket life. I got it for maybe a month due to injury. Skill training will be very important for us. It will be difficult when it starts. Especially for the pacers. Because no matter how much they work with fitness, bowling fitness is a different matter. It may take time for them to get back into the rhythm of bowling. We have to face these challenges. Since we've been playing for so many years, hopefully, that's not going to be too much of a problem.
TBS: May 26 marks the 15th anniversary of your international career. Tell a few words about this long tour. How much have you been able to implement your plans? All in all, how satisfied are you with your career so far?
Mushfiq: Alhamdulillah. First of all, I think playing for Bangladesh for 15 years is not an easy feat. Because it is very difficult to play in three formats regularly in a place like Bangladesh. Having completed 15 years in my international career, I think this is definitely a big achievement for me. I have to thank a lot of people including my coaches, my school level teachers, college, university, and my family-friends who have contributed. Because it was never possible to come this far without their support.
I also have to thank the supporters here. They gave me enough support whenever I went to play or off the field. Whenever they met, they spoke a lot and has inspired me. Many thanks to everyone. And the ups and downs of a 15-year career are natural. Everyone wants to perform well from their place. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don't. And this is human nature, if there is an average of 50, you will wonder why it is not 52 or 55.
There's a little regret though. Although my average isn't so much, I think I have a little regret for my first 5-6 years. Maybe I couldn't play to the best of my ability back then. But since 2013 till now it has seemed like a different ride to me. There is nothing to regret in this period. My statistics show that as well. Infinite thanks to Allah that I have played like this for the last seven-eight years. If I can continue this regularly for the rest of my playing career, then maybe in the end I will be happier.
TBS: Which seemed more difficult - receiving the captaincy or losing it?
Mushfiq: Both are actually difficult. Because when I got the captaincy, I had a different feeling. Because representing one's own country is a dream for any player. I had that dream too. Since I had the experience of captaining at under-18, 19 levels, it was naturally a dream. It felt good to see the dream getting fulfilled in the national team. Although my captaincy record may not be something extraordinary, I still tried. I tried with the team I got.
By the mercy of Allah, Bangladesh has won a few Test matches under my leadership. It was a big achievement for me. Since I was the captain at that time, we were able to win against a few big teams under my leadership. I have won several Test matches against teams like England, Australia, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe. I like it. And about losing the captaincy, there will come a time when you have to leave or let it go; that's normal. This is a normal process.
But I don't think it went the way it should've gone. I might have not got the respect I deserved. So there's a little bit of regret due to this. But there's no regret because the captaincy was gone. Because it's something you won't have forever. It will last until a certain time. But the way it went was probably unexpected. And I still firmly believe that I should have gotten a little bit more respect. It might have been better if the process was followed. As a captain, I have tried to serve Bangladesh with honesty and dedication. So when I didn't get the proper honor there, I do regret a little bit.
TBS: You are Bangladesh's most successful Test captain and Bangladesh has won matches against formidable opponents under your leadership. But you lost your captaincy in a rather unprofessional way. How tough was this for you and were you even ready for this?
Mushfiq: To be honest, not many cricketers in Bangladesh could retire with proper dignity. The same goes for captaincy as well. I understood later that the respect I wanted was too much to ask for. You have to be really lucky to get that in a country like Bangladesh. But I wasn't ready for that at all. I believe the false accusations made against me were illegal.
I didn't actually do all those things and I don't think I lost my captaincy because of those. When the team fails, only the captain should not take the responsibility. The coach must take it as well. It's not a game where you can win games single-handedly. It's a team game and everyone here has to contribute. Even the thirteenth or fourteenth player has contributions.
I think everyone wants to take the credit when the team wins, but no one wants to take responsibility when it loses. It's the reality. I was a bit unlucky, not to get proper support from the coach. I got some support when Shane Jurgensen was there. But after that, nothing. You can say that, only I had to battle against all the odds.
TBS: What was the most important lesson you learned while captaining?
Mushfiq: Probably I said a few things that I shouldn't have said. A lot of people made mistakes. Maybe I should have digested those. But I was vocal about the mistakes. My biggest lesson which I learned during the stint was that sometimes you need to pretend. I could never do that in my whole life. So I think if I had done that, I would have been able to captain the side for many more days.
Yes, my performance as a captain could have been better. But I don't like talking at someone's back. I like to say clearly what I feel is right. But I have no regrets. Getting and losing captaincy are usual processes. But what hurt me was the way it was taken away from me.
TBS: How much do you rate yourself as a captain on the scale of 10?
Mushfiq: When you rate a captain, you need to see how many games he has won for his team. I may not be the most successful captain in the history of our cricket, but no one is anywhere near me in terms of success in Tests. Probably I could not be that successful in the other two formats. Overall, I would like to give myself 7 out of 10.
TBS: Your chemistry with Chandika Hathurusingha didn't work well. You had different opinions. Probably you were forced to do a lot of things. You were always under pressure. Was this the toughest period in your career? If not, when was it?
Mushfiq: It's quite a natural thing. New players make their way into the team. You have to deal with them. You have to handle all the players. When I made my debut, there were a lot of senior players around. I had to adapt. Same goes for the management. I have played under 7-8 coaches. Everyone has their own philosophy, creativity and ability.
I think he could not realize properly what I tried to make him understand. Probably his philosophy was different from mine. Sometimes I found it better, sometimes I didn't. So naturally there was a distance between him and me. I can't say the exact reason why he didn't like me.
I used to express my views directly and that could be a reason. If I had been a 'Yes boss' kind of person, then it would have worked in my favour. But I never did that. I always believe that team comes first. I am willing to fight anyone for justice. It cannot be an ideal process to axe a player without any valid reason.
I have always tried to be honest. Sometimes I had support, sometimes I didn't have. At that time, I didn't get much support from my teammates either. When you are not in good terms with the management, you want your teammates to support you. But I hardly got that from them.
But once I had a tougher time than this when I found myself out of the team. But I tried my best to overcome the challenges during Hathurusingha's reign. I didn't perform badly at all with the bat. I could not be successful as a captain. But you need support as a captain to succeed. When the team is not doing well, you need more support, which I didn't get unfortunately, neither from the coach nor from the management. Rather I was accused of different negative things. It's okay to do that, but decisions were not altogether mine. I can tell you, you cannot make a decision yourself in a place like Bangladesh.
TBS: Decline in performance, being under pressure, losing captaincy- do you think Hathurusingha was behind all these?
Mushfiq: I cannot tell you that clearly. Because I don't know what discussion he and the management had. South Africa tour was his last assignment. During the tour, he was not the same person as he used to be. Didn't speak much. He hardly spoke in team meetings. He was not much involved in practices as well. I could sense that something was going to happen. But I never expected him to leave.
South Africa tour is always tough for any side. I wanted the coach to support the team in such a difficult tour, but not to be. It was a big loss for us. It was tough for the whole team. To be honest, we didn't get much support from our chief selector (Minhajul Abedin Nannu) either.
TBS: Did you lag behind a little bit as a cricketer because of Hathurusingha?
Mushfiq: It's difficult to tell. But I won't say that we had a close relationship. But at some point when I needed his help, he helped me. And I also helped him when he asked for it.
TBS: How much have you learned from him?
Mushfiq: From batting point of view, I learned quite a few things from him and I actually feel I became a better player during his reign. I improved a couple of things talking to him. Yes, there were highs and lows, but not everything was bad.
I might have done something wrong. He could tell you better why there was a gap between him and me. I have to admit that as a player he supported me mentally. Our batting approach changed under him and a lot of players did well under him.
TBS: It is said that Mushfiqur Rahim is way too emotional. Have you learned to control the emotion somewhat?
Mushfiq: I think humans need to be emotional. If you don't do anything with emotion, passion, and sincerity, you can't sacrifice for that thing. If you don't have the feeling for your parents and wife, you won't be able to do something for them. But there has to be a limit of emotions.
Probably I was more emotional at the first stage, because I was young. When I lost the captaincy, I understood to how much extent it should be expressed. As I said earlier, if I had learned to pretend, I could have controlled it more.
I could have performed better if I had been more mature. When I lost captaincy in 2014, I couldn't understand it. But when I lost it in 2017, I realized it well. Since then, I have been trying to control my emotions and I have become more mature.
I am glad that gradually I have been able to control the emotions and I can do whatever I like now by the grace of Almighty. My wife deserves the credit too. I have learned a lot of things from her. I have realized that it's never good to trust someone blindly. It's going well now by the grace of Almighty.