Mushfiqur Rahim is hurting. Physically, after a Duanne Olivier bouncer that crashed into his helmet and emotionally, after copping the blame for Bangladesh’s worst Test defeat to South Africa and overall limp showing in the series.
Despite the pain, Mushfiqur insisted he has no plans to step down as Test skipper and will let the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) decide whether he is fit for the role.
“When the team does really well, all the credit goes to the management and when we are not doing really well, all the blame comes to the captain. I can take it,” Mushfiqur said after the Bloemfontein Test.
“Obviously all the blame comes to me being the captain. The board will decide about me, since there’s a lot of time before the next Test series. It is not about what I want. I can’t decide to stay as captain, neither can I leave it. The board has to take the decision and I am sure they will take a good one for the team. Country comes first, not the individual.”
Mushfiqur was appointed Bangladesh’s all-format captain in 2011, attempted to resign from the limited-overs roles in May 2013 but was convinced to stay on and was then replaced as ODI captain in September 2014 by Mashrafe Mortaza. The six years of varying leadership experience Mushfiqur has to his name has made him realise something about taking charge of a team like Bangladesh: it’s not easy.
“Captaincy is always challenging, more so in a team like ours. We are ranked No. 9 or 10 always, so there’s a lot of pressure playing against top sides. The last two Tests didn’t go as the last couple of years have gone,” he said.
While Bangladesh were not necessarily expected to win in South Africa, their form over the last few months – especially at home – suggested they would put up more of a fight. But they didn’t give themselves the chance when they chose to bowl first on flat pitches, twice.
Both times, Mushfiqur explained the decision as being based on the hope that his attack would get to make use of any early moisture or movement but both times, it was obvious there wasn’t much of either on offer. BCB president Nazmul Hassan said he was “surprised,” by Mushfiqur’s decision and though the captain is willing to admit he may have got it wrong, he wants the chance to make things right.
“The blame is coming at me, because I decided to field first in both Tests. Maybe I haven’t been leading properly and that’s why the team isn’t doing well. This is why I am saying that I should be given opportunity to correct my mistakes,” Mushfiqur said. “I haven’t heard anything from them [BCB]. I said it honestly and if it hurt someone, I have to say sorry. I don’t want to be the reason for the team’s bad result. I always tried to inspire the team, and lead from the front. I am also a human being, and I am bound to make mistakes.”
Mushfiqur would not be drawn into detailing how much of a say the coach, Chandika Hathurusingha had on decision-making, instead deflecting by insisting the camp was democratic. “Everyone tries to give their opinion. We take decisions collectively. It is not any person’s team. Everyone has a say in selection and plans, which I try to execute in the field,” he said.
He also would not say what his relationship with Hathurusingha, which is though to be strained, is like. “It is better to ask him because I am always trying my level best,” Mushfiqur said. “The team management also try to do their best.”
And so do the players. Mushfiqur was at pains to point that they had a very strong motivation not to go down in the manner they did.
“Everyone gives their 100 percent but not all can be successful. I think we all tried. It is not a club game; we are playing for the country. We don’t want to lose the respect that we gained over the last four years,” he said.
Asked whether the batting or bowling let him down more, Mushfiqur said he was equally disappointed in both departments.
“I think it is both. There was not a lot of pace and movement in these wickets. But our bowlers, I felt, were good enough to bowl more consistently. I wasn’t worried about the outcome but I wanted to see them do the process right. I think they bowled well towards the latter part of the innings. We have a lot to learn from these Tests,” he said.
Faf du Plessis had some sympathy for his opposite number, especially because Mushfiqur did not have the resources at his disposal to properly challenge South Africa.
“You look at the two different styles of teams. Bangladesh don’t have tall bowlers. In these conditions you need bowlers who are a bit taller and who can get a bit more bounce. Bounce and pace is what you need when you go to South Africa or Australia,” du Plessis said.
But he also pointed the finger at the Bangladesh players, who did not even apply basics.
“Then there’s control. That was lacking from Bangladesh in this series. As a batting unit, we felt that every over there was a boundary you could score, so control is very important,” du Plessis said.