VISAKHAPATNAM: Mustafizur Rahman is quite like Scrooge McDuck. He doesn’t have a penchant for blue frock coats or pince-nez glasses. Nor does he come close to qualifying as a doppleganger of an animated pekin duck.
What he does have, though, is the knack for being frugal when it comes to conceding runs, and a treasure trove of talent for wielding the leather ball — the real-life, cricketing equivalent of the Walt Disney creation in the context of these two traits.
Paeans have been sung in praise of the 20-year-old from Bangladesh ever since he first made ripples with stellar outings last year. Two consecutive five-wicket hauls against India, contributions that helped engineer his country’s home ODI win against South Africa, and also a ‘three in four’ feat against the same nation on Test debut — the Fizz’s accolades warranted the applause that followed.
The Sunrisers Hyderabad seamer’s debut IPL tale too is treading a similar path. Thirteen wickets in nine matches with an economy of 6.15, and a Man-of-the-Match-winning 4-1-9-2 against the Kings XI Punjab a fortnight ago. Somewhere in the Duck Universe, Scrooge would be nodding with a hint of admiration. So did Shikhar Dhawan after the Sunrisers Hyderabad’s obliteration of Mumbai Indians on Sunday.
“From Day 1, he’s made a big impact in international cricket, and he’s still maintaining it. You can see the quality of the slower ones he bowls, or his yorkers and bouncers,” remarked Dhawan. “The best thing about him is that even though he’s new to international cricket, he backs himself.”
Armed with indecipherable cutters, Mustafizur’s presence has been like a Dementor’s Kiss for the opposition’s batting this season. Take for instance Hyderabad’s win against Mumbai. After being introduced in the 10th over, he mopped up the tail with minimal fuss.
Even the lack of a diverse linguistic skillset doesn’t deter the proficient-only-in-Bengali Mustafizur from doing what he does best. “Communicating with him? He just says ‘good’, ‘yes’ and ‘no’,” quipped Dhawan. “He has a good sense of the game. That helps him understand what we tell him. When he doesn’t, Ricki Bhui becomes the mediator.”
The Rising Pune Supergiants, who face the Sunrisers on Tuesday, too are wary of the obstacle. “I have to first acknowledge he’s very good. He’s been a breath of fresh air with skills that he’s brought to the game,” said Pune coach Stephen Fleming on Monday.
“I think the two options is for you to get right across and play him through the leg side, or you stick away and play him through the off side. Both are difficult and he’s a bit of a sensation.”
1 Only bowler to have won Man of the Match awards in both ODI (5/50 vs India last year) and Test (4/37 & 0/21 vs South Africa last year) debuts.
9 The 20-year-old claimed nine wickets in three matches for Bangladesh in the showpiece World Twenty20 in India in March, including a haul of 5-22 against semifinalists New Zealand.