A teenager’s tale: truant kid to top cricketer

Just 19, left arm paceman Mustafizur Rahman has set Mirpur stadium on fire, humbling the mighty Indians with two sensational spells of seam bowling.

Suliman Niloyand Kamrul Hassanbdnews24.com
Published : 22 June 2015, 04:25 AM
Updated : 22 June 2015, 07:16 AM

Eleven wickets in his first two matches -- the two ODIs against India on Thursday and Sunday--  has eclipsed the record of Zimbabwe's Brian Vittori's ten wickets in the first two matches during the 2011 series against Bangladesh.

After a dream 5 for 50 debut on Thursday, Mustafizur returned 6 for 43 on Sunday. But his hunger is undiminished. In the third ODI against India on Wednesday, the teenager says he intends to do "even better".

An Indian website asked where this 'gem' was all this time. So who is Mustafizur Rahman?

A schoolboy who would skip studies and classes to chase opportunities to play cricket, Mustafizur hails from a well-off peasant family at Satkhira's Tetulia village.

His father Abul Qasem Gazi and mother Mahmuda Khatun brought up their six children with much care and gave Mustafizur, the youngest, a decent childhood.

Gazi was a farmer until 2000, working his lands for a living, until he turned to prawn cultivation. But after returning from Hajj in 2004, he left it to his sons to handle.

Mustafizur has publicly acknowledged on the podium of the Mirpur stadium after winning his second Man of the Match in as many games that he owes much to his brother Moklesur Rahman to have come this far.

Moklesur told bdnews24.com that Mustafizur was always very attached to him.

"He is ten years younger to me, the youngest of our family, so I would even feed him when he was not willing to eat," says Moklesur.

He remembers playing cricket in the long courtyard of their Tetulia village home and discovering early on that Mustafizur was a southpaw.

"We grew up watching Wasim Akram and Chaminda Vaas and I loved the way they bowled. It is then I decided my brother will be a left arm bowler because we always needed one in our team," recalls Moklesur.

Moklesur said that often the teams playing the village would have to hire outside players for as much as Tk 1000.

"At that point, we realised it is better to develop our own players. And I did find some resemblance with Akram and Vaas as my brother started to run in to bowl. I knew we could make him big."

Once Mustafizur started displaying his natural talent and started to bowl well, Moklesur started taking him away for matches to different places -- always skipping school.

"It is much later that my father and elder brothers came to know of it but one of them backed the decision to encourage Mustafizur to play and get better. He always provided funds," recalls Moklesur Rahman.

Mustafizur's passion for cricket had taken over and as he started to do well, the teenager slowly drifted away from studies.

"He was never keen on studies but had reached 10th grade in school. He was supposed to take the SSC tests in 2013 but that did not materialise," Moklesur said.

Moklesur recalls that one Milon first asked him to take Mustafizur to Satkhira Gonomukhi Sangha coach Altaf.

Tetulia in Kaliganj Union is 40 kms from Satkhira town but the journey was not disappointing.

"Gonomukhi Sangha coach Altaf asked my brother to bowl at the nets and came back and told him he was priceless. He asked me to take good care of Mustafizur because he had the talent to go far," Moklesur said.

As Mustafizur started playing age-level tournaments, coaches recognised his potential.

One coach Salahuddin advised the young seamer: "In Satkhira, many boys play well until 18 and then lose their way chasing girls. Please don’t go after girls, one day, the whole country will be after you."

Moklesur recalls support from the extended family, with uncles living in US and UK sending playing gear like boots and one of them, who works for the ‘Daily Star’, buying him cricket bats.

"I made him practise real hard, hours after hours. At times, Mustafizur would complain because he felt tired but I would push him hard."

West Bengal fast bowler Ranadeb Bose, who had come close to Indian selection, spotted Mustafizur when he was a consultant at the Bangladesh National cricket academy from 2012-14.

"Mustafizur is a very quick learner and he surrenders himself to the coach. He would listen to whatever I said, he would keep trying," he recalled.

"He is an ideal student, a coach's delight."

His maternal uncle Shariful Islam , who works with the 'Daily Star’, says Mustafizur has come up the hard way through the ranks, first playing at district level, then making his way to age-group national teams and finally to the main national side.

"It is when I started to watch him practise and bowl with fire that I realised this boy has it in him. Given a chance, he will make us proud."

Brother Moklesur and uncle Shariful are both bowled over by his performance for Bangladesh.

"Never thought he would give us such a huge surprise," says Moklesur. "But I now believe he will get better."

Shariful agrees. "He will go places."

Muffasin Islam Tapu, who had coached Mustafizur recalls that the youngster was "more keen to bat than bowl".

"I changed his mind because I could see he had a natural bowling action that would take him places. I am so happy to be proved right."

Mustafizur's first coach Altaf is a proud man.

"Two of my favourite pupils are now in the national team, Soumya Sarkar and Mustafizur Rahman. Both have made me proud but Mustafizur's performance is unbelievable."

Altaf resonates a proud coach in far-off Mumbai in neighbouring India -- Ramanand Achrekar. 

The man who coached Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher