Mushfiqur Rahim is keen to celebrate the milestone of his 50th Test match by helping Bangladesh square the series against England in Dhaka.
The second Test begins on Friday at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium.
Upon being congratulated on his way out for wicketkeeping practice on Wednesday, Mushfiqur looked up with curious eyes. “You’re about to make a half-century, your 50th Test…,” he was told.
Mushfiqur smiled back, saying, “Yes, I remember that,” and asked “How many of us have played 50 Tests before?”
On being told that Mohammad Ashraful (61) and Habibul Bashar (50) are the only Bangladeshis to have reached the tally, Mushfiqur said, “I’ll only be the third…actually it makes sense, we play so few.”
The wicketkeeper-batsman spoke to bdnews24.com about his excitement ahead of his landmark Test appearance.
“Playing 50 Tests is a huge thing. Obviously, it feels very good, particularly because we get to play too few Tests. Considering that, 50 Tests is a big achievement.
“It will be great if I can do something good in this Test, and better if the team can turn up with something good.”
His career began a little shy of 18 years during the Tigers’ tour of England in 2005. He sat through the first warm-up game and made 18 and 63 at Hove against Sussex in the next. He then smashed an unbeaten 115 against Northamptonshire to burst onto the scene.
Mushfiqur earned his Test cap at Lord’s at 17 years 351 days – the youngest player to make debut at the historical ground.
And it is against the same opponents that he will reach another landmark.
“My international career began with a Test. My love for Tests has also been around for a long time. I’ve always wanted to play a lot of Tests and had a lot of dreams with it. But it was impossible to imagine I’d come this far,” he said.
“It feels great to have come so far. Only two others have played 50 Tests before this. I definitely feel very fortunate.”
His career, however, did not start off in a smooth manner. He was left out after scoring 19 and 3 on his debut and had to wait until the following year for another opportunity.
But scores of 2 and 0 against Sri Lanka at his hometown Bogra did not help his cause either and he was left him out of contention once again.
Sixteen months on, he got his next call for Bangladesh’s tour of Sri Lanka. He warmed the bench in the first Test before being drafted into the playing eleven for the second in place of a lacklustre Khaled Mashud.
Playing as a wicketkeeper-batsman with the Tigers for the first time, he cracked a brilliant 80 at Colombo’s P Sara Oval and from then on, he never had to look back. Mashud’s career ended there and the baton was passed down to Mushfiqur.
He has sometimes faced criticism over his wicketkeeping and his ability to juggle captaincy, batting and standing behind the stumps, but Mushfiqur has never allowed his place in the team to be questioned.
In fact, he has carried the tag of dependability for a long time. He is the only player to play Bangladesh’s all 47 Tests since July 2007.
The Mirpur Test will be Bangladesh’s last this year but if things proceed as planned, they will play 11 more in 2017. It opens up the possibility for the 29-year-old to match Ashraful’s record of playing the most Tests for Bangladesh.
Driven by his desire to play, backed by his fitness and ability to work hard and favoured by his age, Mushfiqur can perhaps someday become the first Bangladesh player to stand in his 100th Test.
Mushfiqur, however, does not want to look so far ahead.
“It’s no use thinking about the number of Tests. Rather I need to think about the number of runs. Of course, I want to play as many Tests as possible for the country. But it’s more important to focus on how much I am able to contribute to the team,” Mushfiqur said.
In the Chittagong Test, Bangladesh put up a good fight against England who sneaked a 22-run win on the last day.
If the Tigers can pull off a win in Dhaka on Mushfiqur’s 50th Test, it will no doubt be an unforgettable gift for the country’s cricket-crazy millions and for the diminutive man as well.