Almost exactly four years ago, this very setting was the scene of his highest personal peak. In a team that contained more obvious candidates for stardom, it was skipper Mushfiqur Rahim who confirmed what many thought but had not often voiced -- that he is the best batsman in Bangladesh -- with Bangladesh's first Test double-hundred.
Four years on, the Galle International Cricket Stadium -- with the waves of the Indian Ocean crashing barely 200 metres behind cover or square leg, depending on the end the bowler is operating from -- is once more the scene of Mushfiqur's battle. Only this time, he is at the centre of discussion before the first Test has begun, and the discussion revolves around a role he has performed and perhaps identifies with.
At the behest of the team management, Mushfiqur will relinquish the keeping gloves for the sixth time in 52 matches, and for the first time without injury forcing his hand since his first two Tests in 2005 and 2006, when Khaled Masud was Bangladesh's premier gloveman.
The busybody cricketer that he is, this development must not have pleased him. As an intensely passionate cricketer he likes to be involved in the game at all times, and there is no more effective way to do that than to expect and prepare for every delivery to thud into the large gloves.
“I have said a lot of times that keeping is something that helps me,” said the captain in the pre-match press conference yesterday. “From my vantage point behind the wicket, I could understand how the pitch is behaving and that helped me in my batting too. This time, of course, it will be different.”
Yet his batting has perhaps been the strongest reason in calls for him to give up keeping, even more than the odd missed opportunities behind the stumps. He is the best batsman in Bangladesh, yet because of his keeping duties he has been coming to bat at number six in the order, which means he is often batting with the tail. Apart from his double-hundred in Galle, he has been the lynchpin of Bangladesh's recent batting performances -- the 127 in Hyderabad, the 159 in Wellington and even before that, the consummate class of the battling 39 on a Chittagong dustbowl against England.
“He [Mushfiqur] is our best batsman and we want him to bat up the order. He understands that this decision is for the sake of the team and he took it sportingly,” team manager Khaled Mahmud had said when the news first broke out a week ago that Mushfiqur will not keep in the match.
Although Mushfiqur has in the past been touchy on the subject of giving up keeping during press conferences, he seemed indeed to have taken it sportingly.
“I will of course do what the team needs from me,” said Mushfiqur yesterday. “I am quite happy. I will try, if I play up the order, to contribute as much as I can.”
After the press conference Mushfiqur strode out to the centre wicket, lifted the covers and had a look. He took his position at the crease, in front of the stumps for some shadow practice, with the ramparts of Galle Fort looming behind him. There could hardly be a better setting than this for Bangladesh batting's bulwark to create some more magic.